Sep 20 2012
Stuart Broad's England must on Friday start to disprove the doubters who still insist their defence of the ICC World Twenty20 is bound to suffer for the absence of Kevin Pietersen.
Broad has long claimed that Pietersen's unavailability is an irrelevance, because England have known for almost four months the mercurial batsman would not be part of their campaign here. It has been a party line too to point out that those who have returned, or been promoted, to the Twenty20 team have already excelled and demonstrated potential to do even better.
England will begin their tournament proper, after two warm-up victories, against Afghanistan at the Premadasa Stadium - where the first evidence will emerge as to whether they have so far been emitting empty words or statements of intent.
Pietersen is exiled over his breakdown of relations with the England and Wales Cricket Board, but not to some lonely outpost.
Instead, his million-dollar-plus contract as a pundit for the same tournament he dominated in England's march to glory in the Caribbean two years ago means he is perhaps uncomfortably close - airing his views on all competitors, including Broad's hopefuls, from a Colombo studio.
Broad has been unable to shake off questions about Pietersen all month, and so it was again on Thursday as he and his team fine-tuned preparations to try to win only England's second International Cricket Council global trophy.
Asked directly whether the England dressing room is a happier place without the South Africa-born batsman, Broad said: "No. KP's been around for a long time and obviously done fantastically well for us.
"His battles with the ECB at the moment mean he's not here, and we have to put up with that and get on with it. The 15 guys in the squad are excited to be here, up for the challenge - and that's what you want coming into a tournament."
In Pietersen's place, Broad emphasises, are not just handy cricketers but ones capable of beating the rest of the world again.
"We've not just got players who can 'do a job' - we've got world-class match-winners in the side," he said. "Yes, we've got guys who haven't played a lot of international cricket. But we've got eight of us who won the 'World Cup' two years ago - and players who can clear the ropes...guys down to number nine who can do that. I think you need that in Twenty20 cricket."