The Ashes 2010-11 October 14, 2010

Pietersen could be a 'major problem' for England - Buchanan

ESPNcricinfo staff

John Buchanan, the former Australia coach who has accepted a consulting role with the ECB, has said Kevin Pietersen could prove a "major problem" for England during the Ashes in Australia later in the year if he doesn't regain his form. He pointed to Pietersen's recent outburst on Twitter, following his omission from England's Twenty20 squad against Pakistan, and said it did not help the team's unity.

"He (Pietersen} is a quality player and he could be an incredible strength for them but, if he's not scoring runs, he could become a major problem for the batting line-up and the entire team. Andy Flower has been trying to work on that," Buchanan told the Wisden Cricketer.

Pietersen averaged 27.25 in four innings against Pakistan during the summer, and has gone for 26 innings without a century. He represented the Dolphins franchise in South Africa most recently, playing first-class cricket in preparation for the Ashes. That stint was preceded by an outburst on Twitter following his exclusion from England's Twenty20 side, for which he was fined and subsequently apologised.

"Pietersen hasn't done himself or the team any favours with his recent Twittering," Buchanan said. "Two of the things that will be tested in Australia are strength and unity and clearly he hasn't understood his role within the team yet."

Despite his doubts about Pietersen, Buchanan - who is expected to take up his assignment when the Ashes squad lands in Australia next month - said he was optimistic about England's chances in Australia and their potential to be the pre-eminent team in world cricket. "They seem to have a new mental toughness and they are more consistent, except for the odd glitch, which is mainly Pietersen," Buchanan said. "They need to retain this united spirit and sense of purpose. England teams in the past would often be beaten before the Test started. They didn't believe in themselves, even when they were ahead, but they are better at handling that now."

Australia were at the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of India this month, with their batting crumbling in the second innings of each Test. Buchanan believed the Ashes could possibly be decided by the performance of the respective top orders. "The top four, Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, will be England's most important players. That is where the series will be decided. Whoever wins the battle of the top fours will win the series."

England were humiliated on their previous tour Down Under, losing all five Tests, and the role of England's bowling coach, David Saker, was a critical factor said Buchanan. "The most critical member could be the bowling coach, David Saker, with his knowledge of Australian conditions, players and balls and his ability to bring them together as a solid unit. The England bowlers are all good players, so they should be able to adapt.

"None of them has any experience of winning in Australia. Playing overseas is very different and they have yet to prove they can do it over a five-Test series in Australia. At some point doubts will start to creep into their heads and it is all about how they deal with them."