Sydney: Australia's captain Michael Clarke believes England without middle-order batsman Kevin Pietersen will be a weaker side in the Ashes.
Australia will play a two-Test series in the West Indies, which will be followed by an England tour. Clarke will aim to lead the first Australian side to win the Ashes in England since 2001.
Pietersen was sacked by England in February 2014 after repeated confrontations with teammates and the management. Last week amidst speculations of a comeback, newly-appointed England director of cricket Andrew Strauss effectively ruled out any return for Pietersen due to a "massive trust issue" between the two of them.
"There's probably two sides to me, there's the personal side where I feel for KP because I get on well with him, I'd love to see him back playing cricket for England. His form has been outstanding. He's still a great player. I know he wants to play. I feel for him on that side," Clarke was quoted as saying by espncricinfo on Sunday.
"On the other side, we go there soon to play against England. Any team without Kevin Pietersen in it, I don't think is as strong. I think his statistics speak for themselves. He's been a wonderful player over a long period of time. He's still in career-best form."
However, the Australian skipper said he prefers to concentrate on making the best preparations for the upcoming challenges rather than concentrating on England and their issues.
"The last thing we can afford to do as an Australian team is get caught up in what's happening in England, or West Indies or anywhere else," Clarke said.
"I think it's really important we stay focused and make sure we're as well prepared as we can be. Playing away from home is your greatest challenge as an international sporting team. England will be tough.”
Clarke also believes the West Indies will pose a serious threat to his side, as they are coming into the series at the back of some good form against England.
"They've got a really good bowling attack. I think they swung the ball well, whether that was with the brand new ball or reverse swing. They've got some handy spinners as well.
The conditions we're about to face will be very similar to the subcontinent. The wickets will be slow and low and will spin. They're coming off some form against England," he said.