Worcester: A majority of the players contracted to Cricket Australia have described England"s Kevin Pietersen as the best batsman in the world outside Australia.
Pietersen, with 50 percent of the vote, was by far the most popular choice, reports The Age.
Sachin Tendulkar, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Kumar Sangakkara are no where close to him.
Apparently, the Australians fear Pietersen the most when it comes to an Ashes series. Batsmen want to be him, envying his audaciousness, and bowlers want to be a long way away from him.
Pietersen has made 963 runs at 53.50 against Australia, but it is the 29-year-old's attitude that attracts just as much admiration as his record.
His arrogrance has made him a divisive and abrasive character in dressing rooms, condemning him to a short and turbulent reign as England captain, but it has also made him a champion.
"He's the sort of player that is always taking the game forward. I'm not sure of his strike rate in Test cricket (63.35) but generally when he makes runs he gets them at a pretty good speed," said Australian captain Ricky Ponting.
"He's always putting it back on the bowler, the way he moves his feet, the way he walks across the stumps and does things, it''s continually challenging the bowler. That in itself says a lot about you. You need great confidence to be able to do that, because if you get out doing that, at the end of the day you can punish yourself," he added.
Brett Lee was on the end of Pietersen's astonishing 158 to seal the 2005 Ashes, his debut series. Pietersen has made Muthiah Muralidaran laugh by reverse-sweeping the world''s most successful spinner for six and pioneered the switch-hit, changing his grip to face up like a left-hander as the bowler approached.
Justin Langer sensed the England batsman''s greatness as the Ashes turned to dust at the Oval.
"He"s had the courage to play with conviction and aggression. That''s what great players do," said the retired Australian opener recently.