Kevin Pietersen's England: Cricket's New Best Side?

Mark TrippContributor ISeptember 5, 2008

Ever since Kevin Pietersen was selected England captain in late August, everything he has touched has turned to gold. Since completing a consolation test victory against South Africa at the Oval, only rain in the fifth ODI against the same opposition prevented a first ODI whitewash by England since playing Zimbabwe in 2001.

With the birth of a new England under Pietersen, optimists have suggested that the new side could challenge Australia for their No. 1 ranking in both the Test and ODI tables. However, is this a realistic predicition for Pietersen's men?

Australia have dominated both forms of cricket since the early '90s, with Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting captaining the Aussies to global dominance. In the 21st century, Australia have only truely been tested away in India in 2001, and in the 2005 Ashes. After both series, the Aussies came back hungry for success and even more powerful.

When taking into consideration the state of Australian cricket being one of transition, England have reasons to feel optimistic that they can regain the Ashes in 2009. In the 21st century, Australia's success was based around a key nucleus of players involving Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist, and Shane Warne; all of whom have retired.

When considering key members of the Australian team such as Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Brett Lee, Matthew Hayde,n and Stuart Clark are all the wrong age of 30, England's optimism is increased further.

England can be pleased at the fact that their main players can form the nucleus of a side for the next seven or eight years. Batsman Alistair Cook 23, Ian Bell 26, Kevin Pietersen 28 will all be around for a long time, whilst Bowlers Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, and Monty Panesar are all under 30.

Whilst you can never rule out Australia for success in the future, India and Sri Lanka also possess strong hopes.

Sri Lanka's bowling has been enhanced by wonder kid mystery spinner Mendis, though it is questioned how long the legendary Muttiah Muralitharin will last. In addition to this, key batsman Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene are both the wrong side of 30.

India have often possessed strong under-19 sides, though they are likely to benefit from a stronger domestic set up, as well as the huge amount of money the BCCI have. The main test will be how India replace key batsman Tendulkar Dravid Laxman and Ganguly, though the potential or batsman such as Kohli and Bandriath is large.

South Africa and Pakistan also possess strong sides, though South Africa have a problem with the amount of Kolpak players joining county sides, and Pakistan have lost a significant amount of players to the ICL.

So can Pietersen lead England to become the most successful side in World cricket? During the ODI series against South Africa we saw a significant improvement from the side that lost to New Zealand in the June/July 2008 ODI series.

However, the real test for Pietersen will be the India series, and the huge Ashes series in 2009.