CRICKET: Stuart Broad's England begin the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown tomorrow hoping to prove wrong the doubters who say they are doomed to fail in the absence of Kevin Pietersen.
Broad, whose side start their campaign against Afghanistan following two warm-up wins, has long claimed that Pietersen's unavailability is an irrelevance, because England have known for almost four months the mercurial batsman would not be part of their campaign here.
It has been a party line too to point out that those who have returned, or been promoted, to the Twenty20 team have already excelled and demonstrated potential to do even better.
England will begin their tournament proper at the Premadasa Stadium, where the first evidence will emerge as to whether they have so far been emitting empty words or statements of intent.
Pietersen is exiled over his breakdown of relations with the England and Wales Cricket Board, but not to some lonely outpost. Asked directly whether the England dressing room is a happier place without the South Africa-born batsman, Broad said: "No. KP's been around for a long time and obviously done fantastically well for us.
"His battles with the ECB at the moment mean he's not here, and we have to put up with that and get on with it.
"The 15 guys in the squad are excited to be here, up for the challenge - and that's what you want coming into a tournament."
Broad maintains that England have the personnel to a do a job without Pietersen. "Yes, we've got guys who haven't played a lot of international cricket," he said. "But we've got eight of us who won the World Cup two years ago - and players who can clear the ropes."