x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Pietersen is 'out of sight, out of mind' for England team members

Morgan is excited for Buttler and team and says the side is focused on opening tie against Afghanistan who he calls dangerous.

Eoin Morgan and England will not be taking Afghanistan lightly when they start their title defence in Sri Lanka.
Eoin Morgan and England will not be taking Afghanistan lightly when they start their title defence in Sri Lanka.

England's World Twenty20 hopefuls are free to discuss Kevin Pietersen, and his controversial absence from their campaign, whenever they want - but rarely feel like doing so.

Unlike on the outside looking in, where Pietersen never seems to be far from the central topic, his name hardly ever comes up for debate between the England cricketers who have left him behind.

Eoin Morgan yesterday dismissed the suggestion that he, for example, might be tempted to mull over the whys and wherefores of Pietersen's non-selection for England's defence of their only International Cricket Council trophy to date.

The Irishman made it clear too, though, that there is no ban on mentioning the prodigal South Africa-born batsman - whose prospects of continuing his international career after his summer of contract wrangles may become clearer tomorrow when England are expected to name their Test squad to tour India.

Pietersen is not, Morgan points out, "like Voldemort" - the menacing, character in the hugely popular Harry Potter books who is so feared even his own advocates dare only refer to him as "You-Know-Who", "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" or "the Dark Lord".

Asked if Pietersen is covered much in conversation by his erstwhile colleagues, Morgan said: "Not at all really. It's probably out of sight, out of mind."

Pietersen may not stay that way for much longer, given his agreement to work as a television pundit during the three-week tournament set to get under way tomorrow.

Should he become uppermost in anyone's mind at that point, however, he will not be a banned subject. "No. It's not like Voldemort. It's all right," said Morgan, who understandably prefers to talk about people who are actually part of England's Sri Lankan venture.

Specifically, Jos Buttler and his 10-ball 32 not out in Wednesday's win over South Africa just before England flew east. "It was absolutely brilliant," he said. "It gives everyone else belief that he can perform at any given time.

"I've been watching Jos train for nearly a year now, and he's phenomenal. The guy is brilliant - and we've all been waiting for this to evolve. The fact it has now is awesome, great for the team."

Morgan and England must prepare for the first examination of their credentials in today's warm-up match against Australia.

After one more practice match, against Pakistan, England will face Afghanistan in an important opening group fixture on Friday.

Morgan knows from experience those minnows must not be underestimated.

"I've played Afghanistan before, when I played for Ireland, and have been on a losing side against them. So I won't be taking them for granted at all," he said.

"They have a lot of up-and-coming players, and it's a potential banana skin for us.

"If we don't perform, there's a chance they could sneak over the line.

"We'll need to be on our toes."

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