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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 April 2005, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Pietersen ready for Warne's mind games

By John May

Hampshire's Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen and Warne will be eyeing each other carefully

There could be more than just cricket on the agenda when Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne square up in Hampshire's nets.

Mind games and a spot of poker might well be on the menu.

There will be bluff and counter bluff, reluctance to reveal a winning hand, and possibly a chance to up the ante.

For the first three months of the season, Hampshire's big winter capture Pietersen and leg-spin legend Warne will be working towards the same end for their county.

But come July, all bets might well be off if they face each other in what promises to be a closely fought Ashes series.

It is a potentially bizarre situation. Pietersen is eager to play under Warne's captaincy which has transformed Hampshire.

But at the same time, while Warne wants the best for Hampshire, he will be wary of showing Pietersen too much.

There is little point in teaching somebody how to fire a gun if you know he will turn it on you.

If I have a good season I will probably only play a few games for Hampshire
Hampshire's Kevin Pietersen

It is a situation that Pietersen is looking forward to.

"I don't think it will be too strange playing alongside Warnie and then facing him, it's going to happen.

"It's a case of doing what I can around him; learning from him, picking his brains, watching him bowl and picking up tips on how he does his stuff so that I'm clued up when it comes to playing against him if the opportunity comes my way.

"But I think it can work both ways because he can get one over on me by watching me bat.

"We'll have some fun in the nets. Warnie is a really nice guy, he's very friendly and giving and always happy to pass on his vast knowledge of the game.

"We certainly won't be locking horns from the moment he arrived back in the country on Saturday."

Pietersen burst on to the international stage in spectacular fashion in South Africa during the winter and he and Warne provide Hampshire with a match winning combination.

But both - along with other overseas signing Simon Katich - will be forsaking Hampshire for international duty.

Hampshire captain Shane Warne
Pietersen is relishing playing under - and facing - Warne

The perception is that newly-promoted Hampshire will need to win as many games as they can while Pietersen, Warne and Katich are around.

"I know what people are saying but there are some good cricketers at the club and the depth of the squad is fantastic," said Pietersen.

"It's a fact about cricket that if I have a good season I will probably only play a few games for Hampshire.

"But it's not just a question of me winning trophies for Hampshire. I like to think it won't matter too much if I'm not there, although obviously the club would like me around.

"I'm certainly around for the first month of the season, and Shane isn't playing the one-day internationals so he'll be around until July.

"It's a case of doing as well as we can while we're around, and setting a foundation for the other boys to carry on while we're away."

Hampshire won the race for Pietersen's signature, keen to add his rich talent and dismissing whispers of a truculent attitude which prompted a supposed acrimonious departure from Nottinghamshire.

The big difference between Australia and England is that they have a winning mentality
Kevin Pietersen

Pietersen said: "I was treading water at Nottinghamshire, I was in a comfort zone and needed to get out and challenge myself somewhere else.

"This is exactly what I need, a new season, a new county and a new challenge.

"I had some good years at Notts but this club looks to be in a different league. The set-up is in a totally different class.

"Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove is a pretty persuasive character, and there's the chance to play alongside Warnie, as well as the Rose Bowl, which is a fantastic stadium.

Hampshire's Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen blasted on to the international scene in explosive fashion

"Warnie doesn't need to play English county cricket but he and Rod are so passionate about the club and how much they want to win a trophy."

As well as success for his new county, though, Pietersen has eyes on a bigger prize; the Ashes.

"I think England can win the Ashes, but it depends on how consistent we are," says Pietersen.

"We have some great players who have dominated the Aussies on the last couple of occasions we have played them.

"But there's no future in playing well for one-and-a-half or two matches. We have to put out for two months of hard cricket.

"There's going to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the preparation and performance, but we're not frightened of hard work.

"Perhaps the big difference between Australia and England is that they have a winning mentality, they believe they can win every game they go into.

"It's what Warnie has tried to bring to Hampshire and that's what England have to find."



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