Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Pietersen set for second chance with England

AP, LONDON

A year ago, England decided they could no longer live with the divisive dressing-room influence of Kevin Pietersen and ditched their most talented and prolific batsman.

However, the realization is dawning on England that they cannot live without him.

As the national team lurches from one embarrassment to another, Pietersen is being held up as a potential savior. As one British newspaper put it recently, he could go from being the outcast to the messiah.

From the moment he was dumped after last year’s Ashes whitewash by Australia — so, as England put it, the team could build a new “ethos and philosophy” — Pietersen has said he would do anything for another chance.

It seems barely a day goes by when Pietersen, a brash, social media-friendly character, does not beg for a recall, and in the past few weeks, Pietersen has been given fresh hope.

Incoming England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves last month said that players would be picked on performance and not personality when he takes over the role in May. Then, England were eliminated at the pool stage in the Cricket World Cup with barely a whimper, their exit sealed by a humiliating loss to Bangladesh.

Cue fevered speculation about a return for Pietersen.

“There will be a change of scenery at board level with the ECB,” Pietersen told Fox Sports in Australia. “I’ve always expressed my desire to play for England again if I get the opportunity. It seems encouraging, but I’ve obviously got a few steps that I’ve got to climb.”

Officially, Pietersen is in Australia to work as a television pundit with Fox for the knockout stage of the World Cup. Yet he is using the stage to promote his potential usefulness for England.

“I don’t think my best days are behind me,” Pietersen said. “That’s nonsense — I reckon I’ve still got quite a few Test hundreds in me.”

Graves said Pietersen would need to play county cricket in England if he is to stand a chance of being selected for his country. Selectors “can’t ignore” Pietersen if he is scoring runs at county level, Graves added.

“Forget personalities,” Graves told the Daily Telegraph. “Selectors pick the best players in form, taking wickets and scoring runs. That is their job.”

The Telegraph has reported that Pietersen is willing to turn his back on his lucrative contract with Indian Premier League (IPL) team the Sunrisers Hyderabad to ensure his availability for English county cricket ahead of summer series against New Zealand and Australia.

Pietersen is a former England captain and the nation’s all-time leading run-scorer in all formats. He has scored 23 centuries in his total of 8,181 runs at an average of 47.28 over 104 Tests. He has averaged 40.73 runs in 136 one-day internationals, and 37.93 runs in 37 Twenty20 internationals.

If he does make a dramatic England return, Pietersen would have to mend some relationships that are likely to have been affected by allegations in his autobiography, released in October last year, that a clique in the England side bullied and intimidated teammates. He was also very critical of former players and members of the coaching staff.

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