Kieswetter fires warning to Prior
Craig Kieswetter has warned Matt Prior he faces a fight to hang on to his gloves, with the Somerset man declaring it is his ambition to become England's wicketkeeper "in all forms of the game".
The South Africa-born talent, 23, is hungry to regain his England place after falling out of favour following a bright start to his career with the national side.
The wicketkeeper-batsman showcased his ability with some blockbuster displays in last year's World Twenty20 in the West Indies, most notably smashing a match-winning 63 off 49 balls in a seven-wicket defeat of Australia in the final.
"In that World Twenty20 side most of us were probably in the best form of our careers, certainly I was," he told the Guardian. "In the final we just said, 'We might as well try and win this properly.' They [Australia] had four quicks so there was nowhere to hide. KP [Kevin Pietersen] and I thought, 'We might as well have a crack.' We were a bit lucky. But we played some rather good shots too."
Four months on from his swashbuckling efforts, Kieswetter found himself being dropped following a slump in form. And, although he backed the decision, he admits returning to county cricket with his tail between his legs was a hard pill to swallow.
"It was really disappointing," he said. "I was part of the side that won a World Cup. But realistically, when I look at the way I played back in England against Australia and Bangladesh, it was a warranted decision. International cricket is a cut-throat business. It was a tough year. Coming back to your county after being dropped is one of the hardest transitions a player has to go through. That showed in my performances for a while.
"I'm lucky in that coming back to Somerset, they see the players as a family and if you're struggling you don't have to fight it yourself. Brian Rose, Andy Hurry and Marcus [Trescothick] were a massive help to me."
Naturally a very attacking batsman, Kieswetter has spent the last year rebuilding and, with seven first-class hundreds, an improving average and a hugely encouraging England Lions tour of the West Indies now behind him, he is ready to resume his challenge of becoming England's main man behind the stumps.
"It is my ambition to become England's wicketkeeper in all forms of the game," he said. "Obviously Matt Prior's got the gloves at the moment but it's my duty to push him as hard as possible.
"Over the winter, I was fortunate enough to work really hard with Thorpey [the former England batsman Graham Thorpe] at the ECB academy in Australia and then in the West Indies. I made a few improvements that seem to be paying off. There were a few technical points but it was more about being able to settle into the platform of four-day cricket; that mentality of being able to bat for a long time and make big scores."
Thorpe believes the youngster is a player with the brightest of futures, saying: "Craig is a genuinely talented player with lots of shots. You don't want to kill that flair. But it's about rounding out his game, being able to score all round the pitch. People remember him from the T20, but I think there's a lot more in him than that, as a player. He had a taste of it. I suppose he didn't seem like a complete player - we never are - but for him it's about converting those starts and really pushing on."
With England's ODI and 20-over squads set to be announced this week, Kieswetter is eyeing a recall - though if he is selected it is likely to be as an opener.
"Opening, you have to control yourself emotionally," he said. "The adrenaline is pumping. All the great one-day opening batsman can rein that feeling in. I've spoken about it with Marcus, how you hit a boundary and there's a massive cheer, and then another one and you just want more."