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I've got no issues with Kevin Pietersen: Stuart Broad

Thursday, 11 October 2012 - 2:36pm IST Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2012 - 2:37pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
England's T20 captain is ready to welcome Pietersen back as he looks to recover after struggles in Sri Lanka.
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Stuart Broad knows the question is coming and it is not in his nature to offer the dead bat. So when you ask if he would be happy to rejoin forces with Kevin Pietersen for England's tour to India, he tells you straight: "He'd have my support and the team would welcome him back."

As the first senior player to comment publicly since Pietersen agreed a four-month contract with England, Broad's unequivocal stance really does feel as if an olive branch is being held out here to the man who was dropped after sending provocative BlackBerry messages to South African players during the Headingley Test in August.

Broad, captain of the England Twenty20 team which returned home last week from the World T20 after a performance sadly lacking in 'KP' power, is one you might imagine would harbour serious reservations about the return of the prodigal after the summer's shenanigans, especially as one of the chapters in his new book focuses on how to create "a happy changing room".

It was, after all, a friend of Broad who set up the parody Pietersen Twitter account 'KP Genius' which inflamed matters and forced the Nottinghamshire all-rounder to release a statement through the England and Wales Cricket Board denying any involvement.

Yet, asked to clarify his relations with Pietersen, Broad is surprisingly positive, insisting: "I get on fine with Kev. Whenever we're on tour we have a meal and a beer together. We've played together six years non-stop, won fantastic games and trophies together. I've got no issues with Kev and I hope he'd have no issues with me. The important thing is playing well together for England and hopefully we can do that together in the future. It's in the management's hands at the moment but if and when they decide it's right to bring KP back into the changing room, he'll be welcome back. When KP wants to play for England, he's a huge asset to our team."

Though Pietersen will have face-to-face meetings with team-mates as part of any 'reintegration' into the team, Broad admits he has not had any contact since the Headingley Test but is sure they will "catch up" and that there will be a lot of straight talking done within the team room.

"We pride ourselves on having an honest changing room and I think it's important, if and when he does come back, that it isn't just the senior players who make it fine but that every single individual has their say. The clearer the air, the better it will be."

There is a statesmanlike air about Broad these days. At 26, he may look no different from the 'boy band' blond who skittled the Aussies at the Oval in 2009 to spark national celebrations, but 50 Tests and 136 T20 internationals and one-day internationals now tell of a steely pro who can justifiably remind you: "I'm actually quite a hard character."

And never mind a repentant KP. England equally need Broad at his best to rebound from the disappointment of Sri Lanka and to spearhead the Indian tour before next year's back-to-back Ashes series. "I believe the best of me is yet to come," he says. "I've had some amazing experiences, a Test hat-trick, scored a hundred, took a few five-fors but I now want to do that on a more consistent basis.

"Over the last year, my bowling record has been really good. I remember Ottis Gibson [formerly England bowling coach, now West Indies coach] once telling me 'you're at your peak as a paceman between 28 and 32 once you've learned all about your game', and I believe the next couple of years is my time to shine. There have been times when I've been really good with the ball but my batting's not quite there and other times vice versa. So my next goal is to put both attributes together to win Tests, like Fred [Andrew Flintoff] did in 2005.

"My burning desire is to be part of an England team which people look back on in 15, 20 years time and talk about, just like people today talk of the Windies team of the 70s and 80s; when I look around the English game, I think we have the talent."

Broad, a good shout to be Alastair Cook's Test deputy, never bothers looking back. Just bring on the new challenge, he says, even if it is just learning how to play the piano when his mate Jimmy Anderson brings a keyboard along in India. When you spend 280 days in hotels as Broad did last year, you'll try anything. "Er, even though I don't have a musical bone in my body. We've had a tough year but we're the hunters now," he says. And Broad reckons he still lives in "warrior mode".

"I think I've matured and I owe a lot to our sports psychologist Mark Bawden in helping me control my aggression but I also know there have to be times, say when I'm struggling in my 20th over, that I need to get back into warrior mode and just pick a fight, like telling a batsman 'I'm going to hit you on the head'. And that'll get me back up there."

He reckons he combines fire and ice, the feistiness of his dad Chris - the former England opener - with his mum's calm determination to see any job finished. But he knows his own job isn't finished yet. How can he tell? "Well, I'm coming back from my holidays at Gatwick and this cute little five year-old runs up and beams 'You're my favourite player, can I have your autograph please?'?" recalls Broad.

"So I sign and he runs off shouting 'Thanks, Chris!' Unbelievable! I'll know I've only made it as cricketer when I stop getting called by my dad's name!"

My World in Cricket by Stuart Broad (Simon & Schuster)
 




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