Cardiff, United Kingdom – England one-day captain Alastair Cook has insisted that there is life after Kevin Pietersen, as his side aim to get revenge over South Africa without the controversial batsman.
Pietersen will be absent again throughout the five-match one-day series, which starts in Cardiff on Friday, as the fall-out continues from the text message scandal that threatens to end his international career.
The 32-year-old has been cast into exile after angering England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower by sending texts to South African players that allegedly contained criticism of the duo.
With South Africa-born Pietersen on the sidelines, England were beaten by the Proteas in the final Test at Lord's earlier this week.
Graeme Smith's team took over from England as the top ranked Test team thanks to their 2-0 series victory and they can rub salt into the wounds by taking the one-day honours as well.
But Cook has led England to the top of the 50-over rankings on the back of 10 wins in 2012 and, although South Africa will go into the series full of confidence, the Essex opener believes Pietersen's absence won't damage their hopes.
Cook's side trashed Australia 4-0 earlier this year without Pietersen and the skipper said: “There's not really that much change here. He (Pietersen) hasn't been around the one-day squad for a year or so now.
“It's given other people an opportunity Ä obviously Ian Bell at the top of the order and Ravi has come into the middle order and played fantastically as well. That is always encouraging when people step up to the plate like that.
“We are going to need more of that in these five games Ä that players at certain times in this series step up and be counted and put in a match-winning performance.”
While England's one-day stars will be focused on battling South Africa, Pietersen is expected to meet Strauss and Flower later this week in a bid to take the first steps in resolving their differences.
Cook admits positive talks between the various parties are essential if Pietersen is to be welcomed back into the England dressing room.
“Certainly there are a number of issues that will get resolved and have to get resolved,” he said. “For me personally it's obviously a sad situation but as a side we need to put it to one side.”
England must win the series to ensure they remain at the top of the International Cricket Council's world one-day rankings and avoid ceding their place to the South Africans twice in quick succession.
After the disappointment of the Test series, Cook believes starting well at Cardiff is essential to restore morale.
“In any one-day series it's important to start well,” he said. “We saw against Australia we got our noses ahead and they found it very hard to come back. When you can do that it makes it a lot easier going into the later games.
“The Test matches are gone now, we know how strong a side South Africa are now and what a challenge we are going to be. We are going to have to be at our best to try to win.”
England began their training session on Thursday with a coaching clinic from former 100m and 200m world champion Christian Malcolm.
Sprinter Malcolm, who is from Cardiff, put the players through their paces for 30 minutes and Cook added: “That was quite a long way out of my bubble – but watching Bressie (Tim Bresnan) run like Forrest Gump was very enjoyable.” – Sapa-AFP