Kevin Pietersen should focus on England's immediate challenges before predicting success in an Ashes series that is nearly a year away, according to Australia's vice-captain Michael Clarke. After leading England to a dead-rubber victory over South Africa in his first Test in charge, Pietersen said his team had what it takes to regain the Ashes.
But his comments followed a generally disappointing 2-1 series loss for England and he now has the task of turning around their one-day form in a five-game ODI series against South Africa. In his first one-day match in charge, Pietersen led England to a comprehensive loss to New Zealand at Lord's.
"I think KP needs to concentrate on beating South Africa first rather than worrying about the Ashes," Clarke told the Courier Mail. "If anybody is thinking about the Ashes, in my opinion they are thinking way too far ahead. It's going to be an interesting time in Pietersen's career to see how he goes as captain."
Both teams have tough Test tours of India coming up in the next few months and England also have a trip to the West Indies to worry about before tackling Australia. Following Australia's visit to India they host New Zealand and South Africa, then head to South Africa for a return Test series.
They start their preparation at a training camp in Queensland this week, which will also serve as their warm-up for the upcoming three-game ODI series against Bangladesh in Darwin. They will spend the next ten months gradually building towards the Ashes but their schedule is so gruelling Clarke wants to ensure they do not look too far ahead.
"The one thing I want to make clear at the camp is we have some really tough cricket coming up before England next year," Clarke said. "We have three massive Test series in the next year.
"All three - India in India, South Africa home and away and England in England - are going to be as hard as each other. It's about adapting, because all three are completely different conditions. All our planning for the next 12 months will come from the camp."
Clarke is in charge for the one-day internationals in Darwin, which begin on August 30. Ricky Ponting will miss the series as he recovers from wrist surgery, while Matthew Hayden's ongoing heel problem will be assessed at the camp.