Pietersen appointed England captain

Kevin Pietersen's remarkable career took its latest dramatic turn when he was named the new England cricket captain.

The new England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen.
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LONDON // Kevin Pietersen's remarkable career took its latest and arguably most dramatic turn today when he was named the new England cricket captain. The South African-born batsman will lead England in Test, one-day and Twenty20 matches, starting with the fourth Test against South Africa this week. The appointment came a day after Michael Vaughan's sudden resignation and caps a remarkable rise for the 28-year-old Pietersen, who was viewed as the 'enfant terrible of English cricket when he made his debut against Australia three years ago. He has since toned down his outspoken comments - and outrageous haircuts - to become one of the team's most reliable members. "In choosing a new captain, we were keen to identify a player who could lead the team in all three forms of cricket and bring fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role of captain," the national selector Geoff Miller said. "Kevin is a world-class player who will command the respect of the dressing room and I am sure that he will be looking to lead from the front." Pietersen, who was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg near Durban but has an English mother, is the eighth best batsman in the International Cricket Council's rankings and one of the few experienced players guaranteed a place in the side. There is a danger that, like Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara before him, he could find that the burden of leadership hampers his batting style, but Pietersen is a famously focused and driven athlete who has made a career of meeting and exceeding high expectations. "If he takes to captaincy like he took to his batting, I don't foresee any problems at all," Mr Miller said. Barracked by hostile crowds still upset that he had opted to play for England, Pietersen hit 454 from the middle order in seven one-day games on a winter tour of his native South Africa to force his way into the Test team for the 2005 Ashes series. Picked ahead of the reliable Graham Thorpe, who was one of just eight Englishmen to play 100 Tests for his country, Pietersen made his debut in the opening Test against Australia with a pair of half centuries. He then smashed 158 in the final Test at the Oval to earn the draw that clinched England the Ashes after a 16-year wait. Big-hitting but increasingly selective in his choice of shots, Pietersen has compiled 13 hundreds and 11 half-centuries to move to 3,777 runs in 42 Tests at an impressive average of 50.36. "I am very thrilled and excited to have been given the opportunity to captain England," Pietersen said. "It's a huge honour for me and a terrific challenge for me at this stage of my international career."

Pietersen has three tons in his past seven Tests, including 152 in the series-opening draw against South Africa at Lord's. He got within six runs of another century in the last Test at Edgbaston, but could not help England avoid a loss that handed South Africa an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. It was that loss that prompted Vaughan to end his five-year tenure following a string of poor individual and team performances. Although England won 26 of the 51 Tests under Vaughan's captaincy, he totalled just 40 runs in five innings in the South Africa series and was harshly criticised in British media after Saturday's five-wicket defeat. Vaughan, who has an impressive Test average of 41.44 from 82 matches, was replaced by Ravi Bopara for the final Test at the Oval, but hopes to return as a batsman for England for several more years. But even before today's appointment, Pietersen was already set to lead England in this month's one-day international against Scotland, Twenty20 against South Africa and first ODI against South Africa because Paul Collingwood is banned for four games because of his team's slow over rate against New Zealand. Collingwood followed Vaughan and resigned as limited-overs captain on Sunday, clearing the way for one on-field leader to take over in all forms of the game - something the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has long said is its preferred option. Pietersen led England in June in a ODI against New Zealand for the first game of Collingwood's suspension, following Tony Greig, Allan Lamb and current Test opener Andrew Strauss as South African-born England captains. "I have learnt a great deal about leadership from playing under both Michael and Paul and fully appreciate the level of responsibility that comes with the job of captaining your country," Pietersen said.

Kevin Pietersen (captain), Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar, Ryan Sidebottom, Andrew Strauss. One-day squad: Kevin Pietersen (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Luke Wright. *AP