If England are to stand a chance against Australia in the Ashes series this winter, then they will need their one genuine world-beater to be on top form. In the case of Kevin Pietersen, his game is as dependent on his mental state as his physical one.
Whilst those assessing the Ashes odds are aware that the South African-born batsman has indeed suffered his fair share of niggling injuries, the true source of his power lies not in staying clear of injury – by his own admission he has played through the pain barrier on a number of occasions – but in maintaining the belief that he has it within himself to become one of the true greats of the sport.
Anyone who has ever held a piece of English willow in his hands, armed for a long stand at the crease, knows all about the ghosts that can plague a batsman when he is out in the middle. Pietersen is no stranger to them either, as he showed with his poor run of form in the recent series against Pakistan:
"The sequence (of low scores) does concern me. I'm always looking to try and improve. I've got to look at the positives and drag my confidence up, which has been hammered in the last 18 months. I'm nowhere near the person I used to be but I've got to keep trying to work at it. I don't think the technique is bad at all. I had a look at the footage from the 2006-07 Ashes the other day and compared it to the other week and there wasn't much different at all, if any.”
But when Pietersen’s confidence starts to flow and he finds his rhythm, cricket betting pundits note that he becomes an immovable object and the scourge of any bowling attack in world cricket. Last week he claimed to have re-found himself, which can only be great for the travelling Barmy Army, and the worst possible news for Ricky Ponting and his men. There has been plenty Down Under who have made the bold call of naming Pietersen as one of England’s weak links, that sort of pressure usually brings out the best in the batsman and Aussie can’t say they don’t know what that feels like.