Warne reckons Pietersen's presence will decide Ashes fate
Australia will reclaim the Ashes against all odds if Kevin Pietersen's knee injury keeps the England batsman out of the series, spin great Shane Warne has said.
England hold the Ashes after a convincing 3-1 away series win in 2010-11 and Australia's chances of wresting it back do not look bright following their recent 4-0 drubbing in India.
Pietersen will not play in next month's Champions Trophy One-day tournament but is expected back for the Ashes series starting in July.
According to the Mirror, Pietersen, who was having net practice at Lord's and fielding drills with England coach Andy Flower, has shown signs that he is getting ever closer to playing once again, although his Ashes hopes will remain in the balance until he calls for one of his quick singles.
"If Kevin Pietersen is not available for the Ashes I think Australia will win," Australian Warne told Sky Sports news.
"I think he's that big a player for the England team.
Image: Kevin Pietersen turns up at an England nets session ahead of the One-Day International series against New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on Thursday
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Warne backs 'world's best captain' Clarke
"Everyone feeds off him. He's such a destructive player," Warne added of his former Hampshire teammate.
According to Warne, Pietersen is the type of player that opposition captains are wary off, adding that as captains, although both England's Alastair Cook and Australia's Michael Clarke are accomplished batsmen, but Australia wins hands down when it comes to tactics and imagination.
Praising Clarke as the world's best captain, Warne, who calls himself as Clarke's harshest critic, further said that the Oz skipper has the most imagination and flair and is prepared to risk losing to win, adding that it is necessary for the Australian team to have Clarke's imagination to make up for their lack of quality.
Although he said that Cook had improved and is a good captain, he added that the English skipper does things by the book most of the time instead of using his imagination.
Image: Michael Clarke
Photographs: Getty Images
'England are definitely favourites'
England completed a 2-0 Test victory over New Zealand this week to signal the kind of form they are in, but the leg-spin great warned the Australians, led by Clarke, are quite capable of pulling off a surprise.
Warne also warned England not to get too complacent, saying that even though they are the favourites and have a superior attitude because of their home advantage, they should not take Australia for granted as the Ashes will inspire the Australian players to greater heights.
"England are definitely favourites," said Warne, who retired from international cricket in 2007 with more than 1000 wickets.
"They've been playing some excellent cricket, and they're well led by Alastair Cook.
"But I really believe Australia have a squad, if they pick the right players and they perform then, I think the people who are out there writing them off could really be surprised."
Image: Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann
Photographs: Philip Brown/Reuters