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Former Hampshire batsman keen to avenge Ashes 'hurt'
12:53pm Tuesday 24th December 2013 in Sport
Kevin Pietersen's determination is redoubled to help England make up for their Ashes ''hurt'', this winter and far beyond.
Pietersen has mustered only 165 runs at well under 30 per innings as England have lost the Ashes before Christmas, conceding an unassailable 3-0 lead to their hosts.
Since their last defeat in Perth, the former Hampshire player has also seen fellow thirtysomething Graeme Swann announce his shock retirement mid-series.
Yet as he prepares to try to make up for the disappointments so far, starting in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Pietersen also set his sights much further ahead - to the 2015 rematch in England.
At the age of 33, it seems, he has no plans yet to follow Swann's lead any time soon.
''We've been hurt. We've been hurt big time here,'' said the South Africa-born batsman, who is nonetheless consoled by the knowledge that sport is cyclical.
He and England have been here before, yet come back - and so too have Australia during his career span.
''I remember when we hurt the great Australian side in '05,'' he said.
''They waited for another season to have us at home - and they gave us a good, old battering.''
None of that soothes the pain, but it does give Pietersen belief and motivation to fight back.
''We're hurting,'' he said. ''Deep down, we are hurting as international sportsmen, as proud sportsmen and sportsmen who have achieved a hell of a lot over the last four or five years.
''I think first of all, we live for now. Now is Boxing Day, and Sydney.
''Then we can plan and hope to try to avenge and bring the little urn back to London. But that's such a long way away.''
Pietersen is not hiding away from the fact that both he and his team-mates have fallen well short of their own expectations, and others', on this tour.
''We've just under-performed,'' he said.
''We've set ourselves very high targets and good goals, and we just haven't achieved them.
''We've come unstuck.
''The Australians have played much better cricket.''
He will not dwell on the past, however recent, but knows he can still have a say in the future.
''You can't change what's happened - but you can change what's going to happen,'' he said.
''We owe it ourselves and we owe it to a lot of people who've paid a lot of money to come over here and support us, especially in Melbourne and Sydney.
''We've let a lot of people down, and we now need to turn ourselves on and that starts today.''
Pietersen has also spoken up for the tourists' team spirit, called into question in some quarters as England's campaign has nose-dived - and specifically after Swann's ambiguous remarks on Sunday about the arrogance of some of the Test cricketers he leaves behind.
The off-spinner has since clarified that he was not speaking about any of the current England team.
Pietersen addressed the broader topic of morale in a losing camp - and insists Alastair Cook's team are bearing up well in tough circumstances.
''When you win, it's great; when you lose, it's not,'' he said.
''It's simple - you ask any sports player, any sports coach.
''I actually don't think it's too bad...
''I do think this team acknowledges we need to play a lot better this week, because we owe it to ourselves and to a lot of people who've paid a lot of money to come and watch us.''
He is confident they have it in them, too.
''We've proved we're world-class players,'' he said.
''You don't play three Test matches and become horrendous cricketers; you don't turn up on an Australian tour and lose whatever we lost - 5-0 (in 2006/07) - and never have a good day in your career again.
''I know. I lost here 5-0 in 2006/07. I've had some incredible days (since) - Cook, (Ian) Bell, we've had some incredible days after.
''I know - and this is what keeps a smile on my face - the guys who were here in 2006/07 know that good things do happen.''
His own appetite to continue is undiminished.
''I don't know why you have to ask me,'' he said. ''I wake up every single day trying to improve.
''There's a bunch full of blokes in that dressing room, and management... trying to make ourselves better people and better players every single day.
''The pride is there; the passion is there.''
It is an occupational hazard, at elite level as elsewhere, to take the rough with the smooth.
''When you lose, there's a lot of people taking pot shots at a dressing room,'' he said.
''We know we're letting ourselves down; we know we're not playing the cricket we should be playing.
''But we want to improve. The guys are trying their backsides off.
''Some days it works, some days it doesn't. That's what you sign up for in sport. You can't always win.''
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