Pietersen looks to regain form
London - England would love for Kevin Pietersen to rediscover his 'inner skunk' during the upcoming Ashes series.
The South Africa-born shotmaker's flamboyant hairstyle that he paraded during his debut Test campaign, against Australia in 2005, was symbolic of a dynamic approach that was at odds with the often crippling diffidence of many native English cricketers.
Here was a batsman taking on the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, his then county captain at Hampshire and a player whose self-confidence was perhaps even greater than that of Pietersen.
Having been selected ahead of veteran Graham Thorpe, Pietersen capped the 2005 Ashes with an audacious innings of 158 at The Oval that saw him thrill fans with his trademark 'flamingo' whip shot and extraordinary swept sixes off leg-spinner Warne.
But having appeared destined for greatness, Pietersen - who averages over 50 in his 12 Tests against Australia - has recently been experiencing the type of form slump more associated with lesser mortals.
He has not scored a Test hundred since reaching three figures against the West Indies in Trinidad in March last year.
An Achilles injury that ruled him out of most of England's victorious 2009 Ashes campaign has not helped a player who likes to take big strides forward at the crease.
And there is also the sense that, mentally, he has not come to terms with the loss of the England captaincy.
Following Michael Vaughan's retirement, England were keen to have one captain for all formats and, at the time, Pietersen was just about the only candidate who fitted the bill.
But, after taking over in 2008, his brief tenure in the post ended early the following year. Asked for his views on then England coach Peter Moores, Pietersen bluntly suggested he wasn't up to the task.
The reward for his candour was that, while Moores was removed, so too was Pietersen stripped of the captaincy and then told he'd 'resigned' -- which was as much news to him as it was anyone else.
It was also a very classically English way of dealing with a difficult situation and not one for which Pietersen, the son of an English mother, had been especially well prepared by his South African upbringing.
He'd quit South Africa, where he was viewed more as a potential off-spinner, in protest at a racial quota policy he said was hampering his progress -- for England in a move that provoked strong reactions in both countries.
Australia have repeatedly tried to drive a wedge between what they see as Pietersen's ego and his England colleagues.
Former Australia coach John Buchanan said Pietersen's form could become a "major problem".
But Pietersen responded by saying: "I'm not interested in what he has to say. Who is he? He's a nobody.
"He had the best team to coach in the history of cricket. Anyone could have coached that team. He has done nothing else solid so I won't even take it with a pinch of salt."
Turning to his own form, he added: "Even with all the doom and gloom over the way I've been playing I think I've averaged 40 over the last 18 months or so, so it's not all bad.
"I am looking for that Test hundred and I am looking to put myself back to where I was. I'd love people to see how hard I train and all the work I do away from the game to put things right.
"I am trying so hard to get back to where I used to be. Maybe I've been trying too hard, I don't know. But I'm doing everything I can to get back to being the player I have been.
"I see this as an unbelievable opportunity to do something that would be the pinnacle of my career.
"I've won the Ashes and I've won a (Twenty20) World Cup and to win in Australia as an Englishman would be the icing on the cake and the cherry on top."