Kieswetter at home with England
There are no doubts in Craig Kieswetter’s mind about where he belongs, thanks to the welcome he has received from England since he committed himself to the cause.
The South Africa-born wicketkeeper-batsman must face his native country today in a high-profile ICC World Twenty20 Super Eight match at Kensington Oval.
But in company with fellow South Africa-born opener Michael Lumb, he will do so comfortable in the knowledge he has the unqualified support of his new team-mates.
Twenty-two-year-old Kieswetter, a former South Africa Under-19s player, made his England one-day international debut less than three months ago and his bow in Twenty20 just last week.
He completed his education in his adopted country - following a well-worn path from Millfield School to Somerset. He was fast-tracked into the team within weeks of qualifying and has quickly found a home from home.
“It is a very welcoming environment,” he said.
Team director Andy Flower, captain Paul Collingwood and senior batsman Kevin Pietersen have all helped him settle in.
“All the senior players have been giving advice, and Andy has just been brilliant,” he said.
“Colly has been great too, and Kev and I have had a couple of breakfasts together - a couple of chats. That goes a long way.
"I love playing for England and I want to play as long as I can.”
Kieswetter is ready to deal with the “hot air” if South Africa decide it is time to remind him of his roots when he walks out to open for England.
“I’ve played against a lot of opposition where there is a lot of chatter,” he said. “It’s usually just hot air, so I will just try to focus on my role."
England beat South Africa by five wickets in their warm-up match at the same venue and Kieswetter was not subjected to any chatter from the opposition. While the wicketkeeper-batsman acknowledges it may be different this time, he insists it will not put him off.
“There was nothing at all; they were obviously just trying to get themselves ready for this World Cup,” he added. “Obviously there is a lot riding on tomorrow, another Super Eight game.
“There is bound to be hype around me for this game. But I have to try to focus on my job in the side.
“It’s not really an issue for me. It is another game for England, and one I’m excited about and determined to do my role as well as I can.”
Kieswetter goes into the match on the back of a series of handy but not entirely substantial innings, and is naturally hoping he can convert a start into a major contribution on the big stage.
England looked in control throughout against Pakistan, helped by Kevin Pietersen’s unbeaten 73 on the way to a six-wicket verdict - a heartening outcome after they had to scrape through a rainy group stage in Guyana.
“It was not that comfortable in the end, but nice to get up and running in the Super Eights, especially after the way we got through,” added Kieswetter.
“I’m pretty happy with where I am with my batting. I’m just a little frustrated in a sense that I am getting off to a start but then getting out again.
“I hope a big innings is round the corner. It’s quite tough, because in the first six (overs) I’ve got to go as hard as I can to get us off to the start we need.”
Both England and South Africa are expected to be able to pick from fully-fit squads, having each apparently found the winning formula.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes they are approaching their peak.
“We’ve been searching for the right combination and we certainly started a little rusty in this tournament,” said the South Africa captain.
“If we can improve five or 10%, then we will push England hard.
“They will have confidence. But we faced them in a warm-up game, so we have a pretty good idea how we’d like to play against them.”