Hampshire and Australia batsman Simon Katich believes the cricketing ability of his potential Ashes rival Kevin Pietersen knows no limits.
Simon Katich believes the cricketing ability of his potential Ashes rival Kevin Pietersen knows no limits.
Australia batsman Katich, a county team-mate of Pietersen's at Hampshire in the early months of this season, has already seen enough of the mercurial 24-year-old to be confident of his capabilities at the highest level.
Pietersen, set to play against his Rose Bowl colleague twice in under a week - when the Australians begin their Ashes tour by taking on a Professional Cricketers Association Masters team at Arundel tomorrow and then England in Southampton next Monday, both in twenty20 matches - has yet to make his Test debut and was not selected for the warm-up series against Bangladesh.
But Katich has no doubts Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen, who made an astoundingly successful start to his international career in England's limited-overs series in his native South Africa last winter, has the talent to make the most of his opportunities.
"What he could achieve is unlimited," Katich said of his fellow middle-order batsman.
"It is always tough with the level of expectation which starts to surround players like him. But he is a very exciting cricketer; he is only 24 and probably still learning about his own batting."
Pietersen's professional approach, as much as the runs he has made, has impressed Katich in his time at Hampshire.
The New South Wales left-hander was also taken not just with the impact Pietersen made in South Africa earlier this year but with the fact he was able to instantly produce his best in front of hostile crowds who were against him as soon as he took guard because of his decision to denounce his birthright to play for his native country in favour of making his way with England.
"What he did in South Africa was a real sign of his strong character, because he achieved an enormous amount in very difficult circumstances. Playing in front of those parochial South Africans was a tough situation for him," said Katich.
Since then there have been further signs down on the south coast that Pietersen has much to offer his sport and his colleagues.
"He is a fantastic guy to play with. I really enjoyed playing with him for the first couple of months of the season," added Katich.
"His enthusiasm for the game has really rubbed off on all the young guys at Hampshire, and he sets a great example. I have been very impressed with the way he has gone about his training. He is very professional and he enjoys his cricket."
Katich has no qualms either about Pietersen's controversial decision to give up on representing South Africa and instead seek a career in this country
"He made a decision four of five years ago - and good luck to him. He felt that was going to be the best option for him, and if he plays for England for the next 10 years people will respect that," said the Western Australian.
As one of the embedded county players in Australia's touring party, Katich can expect to be plugged regularly by his compatriots for advice on the abilities, techniques and foibles of the Englishman chosen to take them on.
In two stints with Hampshire and one each with Durham and Yorkshire, he has had more opportunity than most to assess aspiring English cricketers.
As yet, though, he is happy to speak up most for two men yet to play a Test for their country - namely Pietersen and another of his Hampshire team-mates, Chris Tremlett.
Young pace bowler Tremlett will play for the Masters at Arundel tomorrow but is only just on the fringes of the England reckoning. Katich nonetheless reports both he and Pietersen are raring to go if the chance comes their way.
"We have been talking about it [the Ashes] a fair bit for the last couple of months at Hampshire," he reported.
"Chris Tremlett gets a run here tomorrow, and those two are certainly looking forward to the challenge of taking on the boys."