Flower predicts Pietersen revival

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Kevin Pietersen

Despite being overlooked by England for Twenty20 and ODI duty, Kevin Pietersen will return "stronger", according to Andy Flower

England team director Andy Flower expects Kevin Pietersen to return to the international fold and "do great things" in the Ashes.

Pietersen was dropped for the Twenty20 internationals and NatWest Series against Pakistan after a moderate run of form in both Test and one-day cricket.

He spent the final two weeks of the season on loan at Surrey in a bid to work on his game, and has arranged to join his native KwaZulu Natal next month, ahead of the trip Down Under.

With England's Ashes squad set to be named at the Brit Insurance Oval on Thursday, Flower said: "I expect KP to be one of our star performers in Australia.

"I expect a lot of him. He's a very talented and hungry man, and I expect him to do great things for England in Australia.

"I'm thinking positively about his future - that he will do great things for us, not just good things."

Flower is aware Pietersen's pride will have been dented by recent events, which included an unspecified fine for comments made on Twitter following his omission from the limited-overs squads.

"It will not have been easy for Kevin,” Flower admitted. "He is high-quality international cricketer, so he would be very disappointed.

"But I believe that deep down he understands the reasons, even if he disagreed with them. I also believe he will come back stronger from it.

"He and I have chatted a number of times since then. I believe he is going to come back a stronger player for England from it.

Ian Bell

Ian Bell has impressed Flower with his form either side of a foot injury. "He's done a lot of hard work," revealed the team director

"He's reacted well. He's given everything to Surrey in the couple of weeks he's been with them, and also been proactive in arranging two first-class games in South Africa in October.

"He will be doing everything within his power to get ready for the Ashes, and that's the way it should be."

Flower does not seek to hide from the truth, however, that Pietersen has been falling short of his own world-class standards.

"Kevin would be the first to admit that he has under-performed over the last two years for us - in limited-overs terms, especially," he conceded.

Among those pressing for inclusion in the Ashes party, Ian Bell won praise from Flower for his form and application either side of a metatarsal injury which kept him out of the npower Test series against Pakistan.

“Ian Bell has, after his injury and prior to it, shown really good form," added Flower. "He's done a lot of hard work on his game both physically and technically.

"But also he's worked so hard that he's become a stronger man, so he's a strong contender to come straight back into the side."

Bell, Pietersen and plenty of others can expect to continue their cricketing learning curves in the bonding trip England have prescribed for Ashes and World Cup hopefuls at the end of this month.

Flower explained the expedition - to an unspecified destination - is intended to continue the team policy set out in the journey to Flanders before last summer's Ashes.

Kevin Pietersen

Pietersen wanders among the war graves at Flanders last year. England will make a similarly "educational" trip before the Ashes

"It is a camp designed to develop and educate the side for the future of English cricket, not just for one future series," he said.

"There will be team-building elements to the camp. But it is also very much like our trip to Flanders was. It is educational in a sense; we would like individuals to learn more about themselves.

"We would also like our guys to learn more about each other and understand each other better.

"It will also be a camp that helps to give the team a better perspective on life."

Whoever graduates from England's camp to their 16-man touring party, they can expect to have significant cover in all departments - thanks to the presence in Australia this winter of the England Performance Programme, also set to be named at the Brit Insurance Oval this week.

The intention is clearly to have all bases covered, and Flower speaks of a growing confidence from within that England can win the Ashes Down Under for the first time in a quarter-of-a-century.

"That (the EPP) is a significant advantage because it means we're almost taking a squad of 25, not 16.

"We'll pick our 16. But because of the possibility of having them out there, we can have specialist replacements training in the southern hemisphere.

"We understand how tough it is going to be. We understand how good they are in their own back yard. We have no illusions about that.

“But there is also a belief within our squad. The guys are feeling confident. They have the belief we can do well in the Ashes.”

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