Brett Lee has warned Australia's planned assault on Kevin Pietersen could backfire spectacularly and cost the hosts any chance of regaining the Ashes.
Pietersen has been struggling for form over the past 18 months, failing to post a Test century since March 2009 and losing his spot in England's one-day side.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes "there is a big question mark" over the 30-year-old while new ball bowler Mitchell Johnson has told Pietersen to expect a barrage of bouncers during the five-Test Ashes series.
Former Australia coach John Buchanan added further fuel to the fire by declaring Pietersen "has the potential to be fragmentary and an individualist" and "could be a major problem".
But Lee, who took 310 wickets in 76 Tests, believes the Australians are going down the wrong path by targeting England's explosive top-order batsman.
Asked if Pietersen was a potential weakness Australia could exploit, the former Test quick told Sportal on Tuesday: "No way. He's a class act. He will do well and I hope he does put on a good show for the Australian spectators.
"What Test cricket needs is a match-winner and exciting cricket and Kevin Pietersen fits the bill.
"He might be a slightly different character to the norm - he might be away from the side and doing his own thing - but that happens in everyday life.
"I'd always back Kevin Pietersen to come out and do well."
And Lee advised his former team-mates to leave Pietersen alone out in the middle, fearing a verbal assault could fire up the big-hitting right-hander to unleash on the Australian bowling attack.
"There are guys you can stir up and get stuck into and there are others you leave alone," Lee explained.
"Sachin Tendulkar is a guy you don't want to chat to period, because he will knuckle down, same as Brian Lara.
"Kevin Pietersen has controlled aggression and he likes it when someone has a chat to him.
"He takes it personally and it fires him up and he'll want to score a big hundred."
But despite his concerns over the damage Pietersen could inflict - coupled with Australia's recent form dip - Lee is backing Ponting's men to wrest back the Ashes in an extremely tight series.
He predicts England will struggle to adapt to the conditions and the unfamiliar Kookaburra ball.
"While we're being told we're (Australia) down and out, it's a chance to come back and show what stellar cricket we can play and I'm sure they will do that," Lee said.
"England's weakness will be playing on our home soil. We've got a definite advantage playing here as they have over there playing with their Duke ball.
"It's on our turf with our style of cricket ball and on the wickets that we know.
"I think Australia can win, I think we've got a good side."
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