‘We won't be weaker without KP’
England will not be weaker as a result of leading batsman Kevin Pietersen being dropped for this week's third and final test against South Africa at Lord's, according to teammates Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan.
Pietersen, named man of the match after hitting a brilliant 149 in the second test at Leeds, was left out at the weekend because he failed to confirm he did not send derogatory text messages about fellow England players to the opposition.
"Just because you lose one player it doesn't necessarily make you are a weaker team," said offspinner Graeme Swann in his Sun newspaper column on Tuesday.
"We all need to be pulling in the same direction - not 10 of us doing it and one of us not."
Swann said England's one-day results had improved since Pietersen gave up 50-over and Twenty20 international cricket in May.
"Since Kevin retired from limited-overs cricket we are unbeaten in all matches in the shorter formats," he said.
Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow, 22, has replaced Pietersen and takes good form to Lord's after scoring a century against Australia A in Manchester last week.
"It may be an even better side," allrounder Tim Bresnan told reporters when asked how the absence of Pietersen would affect England.
"It's one of those things where a talented player has been replaced by another talented player. Why should we miss certain individuals just because they're not available for selection?".
Bresnan said the spirit among the squad, who are 1-0 down in the series, had not been destabilised.
"We met up yesterday, the mood in the camp was exceptional. It's just like it always is. Always relaxed, quite focused, but we've always got the driving desire to get that win," he added.
There is media speculation the row could spell the end of Pietersen's career but former England captain Michael Vaughan hoped the South African-born batsman would be given another chance.
"If it's true that he sent those texts it will take a long time for him to be allowed back," Vaughan told BBC radio.
"It's been a mad, but also a very sad, week for the England cricket team. There are no real winners but one very big loser and that's Kevin Pietersen."
The Lord's test starts on Thursday.