- The Ashes
Pietersen promises tribute to late friend
Kevin Pietersen has promised any success he has in his 100th Test to the memory of a boyhood friend who died recently.
Pietersen, who will become the 10th England player to reach the 100 Test landmark when England begin their Ashes campaign in Brisbane on Thursday, was granted compassionate leave at the start of the tour to fly to South Africa to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Jon Cole-Edwardes who died from a rare form of cancer on September 27 aged just 33.
"I got to say goodbye to him 18 hours before he passed away and left us," Pietersen said. "He left his wife and twins behind.
"He was my best mate who I grew up with as a kid and losing him has really hurt me over the last month or so. It has been bad. I grew up with this guy since I was a baby and every single holiday we went on together, literally he is like my brother and saying goodbye to him 18 hours beforehand was just so tough.
"I will be thinking about him if I get a big one here, I've been thinking about black armbands and stuff, but I don't want to get the violin out and all that. I'd rather just concentrate on things. I've been speaking with his mum and yesterday she said 'Jon will be watching'."
Pietersen admitted the bereavement had put his cricketing career into perspective.
"This cricket malarkey is simple," he said. "I had to go and do a eulogy at his funeral on the Saturday when the guys were already here. I was a shambles there."
He also admitted there had been times during the 'text-gate' episode in 2012 when he thought he would never represent England again. Now, though, he insisted the dressing room environment was "fantastic" and, as well as crediting improved communication, also accepted that all parties had "grown up".
"There probably were a few occasions [when I thought I may not play again], yes," Pietersen said. "Emails were flying around and telephone conversations were being had. I think this stuff is for when I finish my career. I will give a very good explanation as to how things were and how things weren't when I'm done.
"It's a nicer environment now I think. I've seen comments from the players that we all made mistakes last year. And we've all grown up and actually grown a lot tighter.
"If you look at the environment now it's absolutely fantastic and I'm not lying I'm being dead straight. We're all having so much fun and that front page [of an Australian tabloid which suggested Pietersen was unpopular with his England teammates] was so funny because 10 hours before that we'd all had an amazing team dinner. We all had such a great time in Sydney, such a great time together, that when you see a front page like that it just makes me laugh.
"Last year there was a bit of treading on eggshells and pussy-footing around, whereas now the boys have acknowledged that it is time to do some business as an England team and that is what we are here to do."
While Pietersen reiterated his desire to play on until at least the 2015 World Cup, he accepted he may require minor knee surgery at some stage as an indirect result of the bone bruising he suffered in New Zealand early this year.
"Clearly the knee is something that I will have to get looked at and get sorted," he said. "But if it does need an op it won't be a big one because the bone damage is all sorted. It's just a little bit of niggly bits and pieces, which is actually minor. It just causes a bit of discomfort on delivery when I bend down but since I've had the injection it's been fine. That just masks the issue so it's up to me to make sure I do all the hard yards and all the bits and pieces to keep me good.
"I want to enjoy the next two or three years of international cricket for England because last year wasn't fun. I can make it a lot more fun and so can the team, and we're all doing that at the moment."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo