LONDON — Andrew Strauss believes Kevin Pietersen can act as a “mentor” to an inexperienced England one-day side despite his own sometimes difficult relationship with the star batsman.
Pietersen was briefly cast into the international wilderness last year after being accused of sending derogatory text messages about then England captain Strauss to South Africa players.
England lost that Test series to the Proteas and Strauss, who’d been struggling for runs, promptly retired from all senior cricket – a decision he insisted had nothing to do with the fall-out from the controversy sparked by Pietersen, the man he succeeded as England skipper.
Pietersen, however, was soon back in the England fold and now finds himself the senior player in a one-day squad where his fellow recent Ashes-winners Alastair Cook, now the regular captain, Ian Bell, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann have all been rested ahead of the return Test series in Australia starting in November.
England are 1-0 down in a five-match series, with their convincing 88-run loss at Old Trafford separating rain-ruined no results at Headingley and again at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
But whatever the outcome of the series, which continues in Cardiff on Saturday, Strauss believes the experience of playing alongside Pietersen, whose 2013 has been blighted by injuries, can only benefit the likes of 22-year-old all-rounder Ben Stokes.
“He can be really good with young players, actually,” Strauss told reporters at Edgbaston on Thursday when asked about the 33-year-old Pietersen.
“I think it’s good that he’s playing this one-day series, and him opening the batting in one-day cricket is an interesting and potentially quite explosive option for England to use.
“Given that he’s had injuries, and whatever, it’s quite nice for him to have a good run of cricket.
“I hope he is playing that mentoring role and playing it well.”
Strauss added: “I suppose Kevin is a complicated character. But he can be fantastic, really good and engaged in the dressing room and really go out of his way to help other people at times.
“You want to see him do that, because he’s at the stage of his career now where he’s got a lot to offer those young players coming through — and they all look up to him as well.
“So it’s good to hear that he’s doing that.”
Only slightly more than 15 overs were possible at Edgbaston on Wednesday, but that was enough time for often erratic Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson to bounce out Pietersen, having dismissed Jonathan Trott for a duck in Manchester.
“He’s a very dangerous bowler,” said Strauss.
“We’ve seen him at his best; in Perth in 2010 he was phenomenal.
“The England players have seen a lot of him, and kind of know how to deal with him. But if it’s his day, and he’s on song, he’s a handful for anyone.”