Kevin Pietersen will return to the international fold after the ECB and the 32-year old batsman today announced that the two parties have reached a long awaited agreement, resulting in the South African born player signing a four month central contract with England.
The news brings to an end a summer of turmoil for both parties, which has seen KP dropped from the England test team for the first time in his career and led to numerous meetings and apologies as both the ECB and Pietersen looked to settle their differences.
Pietersen was last seen in England colours during the summer test series against his native South Africa, but he was dropped for the decisive third test of the series at Lords after sending what have been described as “provocative” text messages to members of the South African squad criticising England captain Andrew Strauss.
Following the text messages, “mutual respect” and “trust” were the buzzwords of the England dressing room, with Strauss, who has since retired from all forms of cricket, stating that a breakdown in both between Pietersen and the England squad made KP’s position in the squad untenable.
Strauss, however, wasn’t the only member of the England dressing room with whom Pietersen had a fragmented relationship. The Surrey player was also furious at a parody Twitter account, labelled “KP Genius”, that mocked Pietersen, who accused some of his teammates of feeding information to the social networking perpetrator.
After being dropped for the final test match against South Africa, Pietersen, who retired from 50 Over and T20 cricket on May 31, only to reverse his decision on August 11, not only missed out on a central contract, but he was also dropped for the T20 World Cup tournament in Sri Lanka and from the touring party for India this winter.
Today, however, the ECB and Pietersen have announced that their differences have been sorted, an understanding has been reached and KP will return to the international squad in a “four month integration period”. Said period could see Pietersen head to India this winter after all.
However, in my opinion, the two parties wiping the slate clean and reaching an understanding has nothing to do with Pietersen’s return to the England set-up. The batsman had already apologised to his England teammates on several occasions before the events of this week, whilst the parting of captain Andrew Strauss earlier this autumn too opened the door further for KP to return.
The ECB, too, conceded today that the text messages sent by Pietersen, which conveniently no longer exist, did not contain “derogatory” information, with the player promising to the ECB that they were not of a tactical nature or critical of his England teammates.
Why the sudden agreement, handshaking and wish to move on with things, then? I believe that the ECB have realised just how desperately they need Kevin Pietersen, one of the finest batters of his generation, in England’s struggling batting line up.
The disastrous T20 World Cup only highlighted further how dependent the side are on Pietersen. Their inexperienced batting lineup frequently failed to cash in during powerplay overs, an area where Pietersen would usually flourish, whilst their weakness against spin bowling was constantly exploited and can be attributed to England’s downfall against both India and the West Indies.
The Test Series against South Africa, too, was lost 2-0, meaning England relinquished their World No.1 ranking, although they would have been whitewashed with a 3-0 scoreline had it not been for Pietersen’s heroics during the Headingley test match that saw him score a game changing 149.
None of the information that’s come to light today is information that would have prevented Pietersen from being selected from the England squad. It does appear that Pietersen has an attitude that does rub his fellow professionals up the wrong way, but at the same time, that alone should not keep him out of the England squad, in my opinion.
England need Pietersen, they realise that now, and that’s why they’ve offered him a new contract. He’s an extremely dangerous player to bowl to, capable of not only sticking around for a long time and eating up the overs, but also scoring lots of runs, and quickly, able to change the shape of a Test Match within a session.
There is no replacement for Kevin Pietersen in the England middle order. Ian Bell is a world class batter, Jonathan Trott too, but neither have the capabilities of KP, the sheer audacity to try – and often successful pull off – magnificent and impossible looking strokes, the ability to strike fear into opposing bowling attacks.
The decision to leave the batsman out of both squad’s polarised the opinions of fans, the media and ex-players. Some were delighted to see the back of him, highlighting his attitude as a huge barrier to his inclusion in the team, whilst others said that England should be picking their best players regardless of off the field differences.
One thing that is for sure however is that Pietersen is truly one of the finest batsman of his generation and there is not one international side that wouldn’t want him in their top order. With him in their batting line up, England are a much better team and are capable of regaining their world No.1 Test ranking.