Kevin Pietersen remains sidelined as England turn focus to subcontinent
The omission of Kevin Pietersen was widely expected but England must now push on in India, writes Matt Cansick
The ECB’s decision not to include Kevin Pietersen in their squad for the tour of India leaves the waters surrounding the batsman’s England career murky at best.
Between now and the tour of New Zealand in March 2013 – or possibly January’s one-day international series in India following the Test matches – Pietersen will have to demonstrate that he is serious about playing for England again.
A statement issued on his behalf read: “Kevin Pietersen is naturally disappointed about today’s decision having gone to great lengths to reach a reconciliation with the ECB.”
So, obviously, there are still unresolved issues which must be addressed before he has a chance of a recall.
While this is not a conclusion to the saga that has unfolded between player and board, there is at least a little breathing room.
England can focus on the forthcoming series with a degree of certainty and remove all thoughts of their exiled team-mate until early next year.
The touring party has an inexperienced look about it, with uncapped pair Joe Root and Nick Compton joining Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan as batting options. There is also the prospect of Ian Bell returning for the birth of his first child at some point during the series.
As well as having to deal with one of the toughest overseas assignments at the very start of his career as captain, Alastair Cook is in need of some solid scores. He will be looking to lead from the front, possibly forming a new partnership with Root at the top of the order.
Graeme Swann will be backed up in the spin department by Samit Patel and Monty Panesar, and Graeme Onions will be looking to impress in the tour matches as he seeks to re-establish himself in the England set-up.
Pietersen aside, those not making the trip include Ravi Bopara who has made himself unavailable due to ongoing personal issues, while James Taylor can consider himself a little unfortunate to have been demoted to the Performance Programme squad.
Although his scores to date of 34, 4 and 14 are slightly underwhelming, he has not looked completely out of place at Test level and will surely have another chance in the near future, as was the case with Bairstow.
Despite their recent success, and with the exception of a brief two-match series in Bangladesh, England have consistently failed to shine on the subcontinent, and do not exactly head there with ideal preparation behind them.
Having just relinquished the number one ranking, it is important that the slump which followed the 2005 Ashes series is not repeated. One would expect Andy Flower to be acutely aware of this.
Cook may have captained the side on the Bangaldesh tour in 2010, and shown himself very capable in his role as the 50-over skipper, but permanently taking the reins of a team on the eve of a series in India is a far greater challenge.
Before that, of course, the World Twenty20 provides another opportunity for Pietersen’s admirers to crow about what England are missing. As defending champions the scrutiny is already greater than usual, and the fact that Pietersen will be in Sri Lanka as a commentator adds a little spice to the situation.
That said, England are a very good Twenty20 side. In this unpredictable format, they have found a way to pull together some consistency, and tournament cricket requires just that.
Even if they are unable to defend their title, a strong showing should have a positive effect on the squad as a whole, and provide some momentum heading into a challenging winter.