Pietersen raring to go
Kevin Pietersen spoke to ECBtv after arriving in South Africa
Kevin Pietersen has arrived in South Africa feeling physically and mentally refreshed, but England's star batsman will not be rushed back into action as he takes his final steps towards full fitness.
The 29-year-old has spent a large part of the last three months recuperating from surgery to his right Achilles tendon, an injury that forced him to miss the last three Tests of this summer's npower Ashes series against Australia.
But today Pietersen, sporting customised trainers made specially to protect the injury, looked more than comfortable during an hour-long net session at the Wanderers.
The Hampshire batsman faced several net bowlers as well as ECB spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, and also ran between the wickets, while there was even time to rehearse his famous switch-hit.
It was his first outdoor net session since July and, after arriving for the two-and-a-half-month tour yesterday, he says he is raring to go.
Pietersen will not feature in the two Twenty20 internationals against South Africa this weekend, but has set his sights on a return to action in the 50-over warm-up match with South Africa A on Tuesday ahead of the one-day series.
“I’m excited to see the guys again today, to go down to the Wanderers and have my first outdoor net since July. I feel really good and really excited,” he said.
“The fitness is not too bad. I’ve done some rigorous training over the last six weeks, I’ve done a lot of work at Lord’s in the last week before I flew out yesterday and I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fresh mentally.
“I had a bad day on my Achilles yesterday, but I think that was just purely down to the flight. I’ve woken up feeling really good today.
“I’m certainly not going to rush things. I tried that a while back; I got an infection in the wound.
“I enjoyed the break to refresh my batteries, to get myself right and ready to know that I can compete again and want to compete again.
“But I hated getting injured because I wanted to continue playing to be a part of what was a successful summer. So that was where I was at, but now to be back in an England tracksuit is great.”
First Pietersen had to endure the Achilles problem that forced him to miss out on over half Ashes, before an infection caused further complications and saw him forego the ICC Champions Trophy.
“I’ve just treated this break as something to get my head right, to get myself back in love with the game, ready, fit and raring to go again. I feel good now.
“I hated missing fixtures for England - I really wanted to be part of a successful Ashes campaign. I wanted to be part of the one-dayers and try to affect that in a hopefully positive manner against Australia.
“I thought that guys were brilliant here in South Africa (during the Champions Trophy), so I missed out on a lot of cricket that I would have been playing."
England impressed in their first two 50-over practice matches, but completed their warm-up programme with a disappointing four-wicket loss to South Africa A in a Twenty20 match last night.
The tourists play the first of two Twenty20 internationals against the Proteas on Friday, followed by a five-match one-day series and four Tests.
Pietersen is hoping England can build on their Ashes triumph, unlike their post-2005 lull, which saw them lose in Pakistan.
He added: “I think the team looks like they’re really on fire to do some good things out here in South Africa and to be really competitive.
“I’m very encouraged to hear all the positive things that have been said to me by the players over what’s happened in the past couple of weeks.
“I just don’t want us to make the same mistake we made in 2005 where we sort of went on a downhill slope after what was a fantastic summer.
“I think we’re all encouraged and all really keen to make sure that this is a really successful campaign (after) such a successful Ashes as well.”