Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 20 News List

England's Kevin Pietersen insists he's a team player

AFP , SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

High-profile England batsman Kevin Pietersen has dismissed claims from Australia coach John Buchanan that he is not a team player.

Buchanan said after England's three-day capitulation by an innings and 99 runs in last week's fourth Melbourne Test that Pietersen distanced himself from the rest of the team and did not give the impression he was a team payer.

Pietersen, England's leading batsman with 420 runs in the Ashes series at an average of 60, said he was hurt by the suggestion but believes it is part of Australia's psychological warfare to keep demoralized England under pressure.

England must avoid defeat in tomorrow's fifth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground or become the first team in 86 years to endure a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.

"He's probably just trying to target me and have a go at me. Australia love to have a go at individuals before series, during series and after series and I'm not really too interested," Pietersen told reporters in Sydney yesterday.

"It does hurt when people say that because I'm a massive team player. Australia obviously think the series is still alive and they want to win 5-0, so they're trying to get into my head and make me feel like a lone ranger, which I'm not," he said.

Pietersen's role in the team has been under scrutiny because of his reported unwillingness to move up the order from his preferred batting position at No. 5.

Coach Duncan Fletcher said Pietersen did ask to bat No. 4 in the second innings in Melbourne because he was sick of being left with the tailenders, but was bowled by Stuart Clark for one.

Spinner Monty Panesar dis-missed talk that the South African-born batsman was not a good team man.

Panesar said Pietersen goes out of his way to help him and other players in the nets.

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