Kevin Pietersen will be slowly reintegrated into the England side after the brilliant, but controversial batsman settled his drawn-out rift with team management, earning him a short-term central contract.
Pietersen has been out of favor with England since being dropped for sending provocative phone messages to South Africa players about then-Test captain Andrew Strauss in August, disrupting the unity of the team and leaving him an outcast, but after lengthy talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Pietersen will undertake a program of reintegration after which selectors “will consider Kevin for future matches,” effectively putting him on probation.
“It’s been a horrible situation for all involved, but thankfully we have drawn a line under it,” the 32-year-old Pietersen said at a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday. “Playing cricket for England is the pinnacle of any cricketer’s career and I want an opportunity to do that again as soon as possible. I’m entirely committed to completing the reintegration process we have agreed and resuming my England career in all formats, I hope, until the World Cup in 2015 — as long as my body allows.”
Pietersen has signed an initial four-month central contract which can be extended to Sept. 30, 2013, “on the completion of the reintegration program,” said ECB chairman Giles Clarke, who flanked Pietersen at the press conference.
The South African-born batsman wants to resume his international career in time for the upcoming tour of India, with England leaving for the subcontinent — via a training camp in Dubai, United Arab Emirates — on Oct. 25. Returning for the start of that tour is unlikely, although the five-match one-day series against the India at the beginning of January is more possible.
If the reintegration process is successful — it is being overseen by England coach Andy Flower — Pietersen should certainly be back by the time the team travels to New Zealand in February for a two-month tour.
“I want my son growing up seeing me playing for England and I hope one day he will put an England shirt on himself,” Pietersen said.
Pietersen, who averages nearly 50 in Test matches and is the most prolific batsman in the world when at his best, missed out on selection for the World Twenty20 currently taking place in Sri Lanka because of the controversy.
He is working as a television pundit, but England could have done with him on the pitch as their defense of the trophy ended on Monday with a loss to Sri Lanka in the Super Eights. England also relinquished their No. 1 Test ranking by losing the summer series to South Africa.
Pietersen has been engaged in talks with management and new Test captain Alastair Cook in recent weeks after pledging his commitment to his adopted country, which had been in doubt this year as he sought a new contract that would free him up for commitments in the lucrative Indian Premier League.
That began the rift and it was continued when he used text messages to communicate with South Africa players about Strauss.
“Kevin conceded that the messages exchanged were provocative,” the ECB said in a statement. “[The] ECB is satisfied, that to the best of his recollection, Kevin did not convey any messages which were derogatory about the England captain, the England team director [Flower], the ECB or employees of the ECB.Furthermore, there was no tactical information whatsoever provided to members of the South African touring party.”
The eventual return of Pietersen would bulk up the England batting lineup following the retirement last month of Strauss, who stressed his decision was not linked to his disagreement with Pietersen.