London, Feb 18 (AFP) Former England captain Mike Gattinghas backed Kevin Pietersen to be the current side''s battingequivalent of Ian Botham when the South Africa-born shotmakeropens at the World Cup.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior, having won back his place in thesquad from rival gloveman Steven Davies, had been a candidateto open although his previous stints at the top of the orderhad met with mixed success.
And there were suggestions that either one of Ian Bell orJonathan Trott should partner England captain Andrew Straussfor the first wicket.
But England surprised most people outside their camp bypromoting Pietersen, normally a number four, to the top of theorder in a warm-up match against Canada and then announcingthey intended to stick with him in his new role for the WorldCup.
Pietersen certainly looked the part today when he smashed66 off 73 balls opening the innings in the team''s finalwarm-up against Pakistan in Dhaka.
Gatting said given the range of shots available toPietersen, arguably England''s most talented batsman, it madesense to give him as much time to bat as possible.
The former Middlesex run-machine said the ploy couldprove as successful as that used during his playing days whenthe big-hitting Botham, a middle-order batsman in Testcricket, was promoted to open in one-dayers -- in which rolehe helped England reach the 1992 World Cup final.
"It''s interesting to see KP opening because we weren''tquite sure what the coach was going to do with that position,"Gatting said at the launch of joint venture by the Lord''sTaverners charity and the Macquarie Group to promote disabledparticipation in table cricket.
"It''s a very interesting step to take and it will be atalking point, but looking back to when I played one-daycricket, we used to open with Ian Botham.
"The fact is he (Pietersen) is talented, can hit the ballthrough the field and over the top," Gatting added. "He canreally give impetus."
Gatting said too many teams had fallen into the trap oftrying to follow the example of Adam Gilchrist in having awicketkeeper open in one-day cricket when their battingability was nowhere near that of the Australia great, who fouryears ago scored the fastest-ever World Cup final hundred.
"What you want in the one-day stuff is for your bestplayers to get in quickly and for a long time," Gattingexplained.
"Sometimes you put your keeper up there and you can endup with a specialist batsman not getting as long at thecrease.
"If Kevin gets going early then he has 50 overs to batand it will be damaging for the opposition if he stays in."(AFP) SHN