Kieswetter not stuck in the middle
Craig Kieswetter is confident he can rise to the new challenge England have set him in one-day international cricket.
The wicketkeeper passed his audition, for England Lions in Sri Lanka, as a credible middle-order batsman. He will continue that role, against the Lions at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium in tomorrow’s warm-up match and then against Pakistan in four ODIs, thanks to the decision to open with Kevin Pietersen again.
Kieswetter will be returning to his roots, having begun his career in Somerset’s middle order before his county decided his clean-hitting could be even more of an asset as an opener.
It did not take him long to convince England likewise, top-scoring for the Lions against them - at this same venue - in a last-ball Twenty20 victory just under two years ago.
Kieswetter’s international career, including in England’s World Twenty20 success, has involved going in first ever since. But he is happy to accommodate Pietersen, who opened in his absence at last year’s World Cup until a hernia injury cut short that experiment.
“It’s a new role for me, but when I first started playing professional cricket for Somerset I batted in the middle order,” said Kieswetter, who identifies his new position as one that could be pivotal to England’s 50-over fortunes up to the 2015 World Cup.
He learned that much in the 5-0 defeat England suffered in India last October, their most recent ODI series and one from which they need significant improvement if they are not to add limited-overs woes here to their 3-0 Test loss to Pakistan.
“It’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to,” he added. “It’s obviously a little bit different, but I hope my skills can help better the side in that area.
“The third powerplay and the last 10 overs are becoming more and more important. I think that was a great lesson we learned from how the Indians played in the last series.
“We’re looking to try to improve our game and our squad, and we feel that is one area where we can do so.”
Kieswetter will tomorrow find familiar faces in opposition, having helped the Lions to a hard-fought victory over Sri Lanka A.
One who may not be able to take his place, however, is Jos Buttler - selected like Kieswetter in England’s full squad but expected to play for the Lions tomorrow, until it was discovered that split webbing in his left hand might not heal in time to be risked.
A final decision on the fitness of Buttler - and seamer Tim Bresnan, who bowled in the nets today but is still recovering from the elbow injury which ruled him out of England’s Test series - will be taken in the morning. Whoever takes part, on either side, has a big chance to impress.
“It’s obviously a big game for both sides,” Kieswetter said. “I was fortunate enough to play in one of these two years ago, and it kind of kickstarted my international career.
“I played one of these games, and then two weeks later I was playing an ODI for England. There’s a lot riding on this game, our warm-up game for the series, and it gives the Lions guys a great opportunity to showcase their talents in front of Andy Flower and the selectors.”
Kieswetter added: “Any chance you get to perform in front of Andy Flower and the selectors is a great opportunity. Obviously, it’s a great challenge (for the Lions) to take on the ODI side and prove a point to them as well.”
Kieswetter and others can also play an important part in ensuring there is no Test series ’baggage’ for England.
“The Test tour’s done; time for the one-dayers, and a great opportunity for younger, newer players who have been selected to come in and help us win this series,” he said.
“The morale is still high; Finny [Steven Finn] still gets bullied; it’s obviously just great to get back.
“Any sort of away series is a tough task, and obviously we’ve got to be able to bounce back from the Tests and show we’re not a bad side overnight. We’re a pretty solid one-day side; we’re improving and we’ve got some fresh faces as well.
“There is obviously competition for places everywhere - batters, bowlers, wicketkeepers. It’s really healthy, pushes all the players to strive harder, practise better and put in better performances on the field.”
One of those hopefuls will be Lions batsman Joe Root.
The young Yorkshireman’s style has already been compared by many to that of former England captain Michael Vaughan - and Root is not complaining. Vaughan progressed to Yorkshire and England from the same club, Sheffield Collegiate.
“He was definitely a role model, growing up,” said Root, who made an unbeaten hundred from number three in the Lions’ series-clinching win against Sri Lanka A in Colombo this week.
“I always looked up to him, so it’s nice to resemble such a fantastic player. If I can achieve half what he achieved in the game, then I’d be very happy.”
While England and the Lions face off, Afghanistan will meet Pakistan in their first ODI against a full member in Sharjah tomorrow.
Despite being gripped by war, Afghanistan is one of the fastest growing cricket nations. They earned ODI status in 2009 and qualified for the 2010 World Twenty20.
Tomorrow’s match is set to be another flagship moment in their progress as they begin a crucial month that will also see them attempt to qualify for this year’s World T20.
Pakistan interim coach Mohsin Khan said: “Afghanistan is coming up very fast and we will take them very seriously. This one-day against Afghanistan will give us an opportunity to switch to the one-day mode before the series against England.”