Kevin Pietersen must now prove his worth to England in India
Turning some of his proven quality into Test runs is now the key step in Kevin Pietersen's reintergration, writes Rhys Hayward
With Kevin Pietersen added to the England touring squad to face India next month, so ends one of the most thoroughly bizarre sagas in modern sport.
After talks with senior officials and players – of which there are many in this team who have, it shouldn’t be forgotten, produced one of the defining eras in England’s history – Pietersen’s ‘reintergration’ into the squad appears complete, 73 days later.
The story succeeded in keeping cricket on the back pages in a summer dominated by success stories in other less celebrated sports (and taught the cricketing press a new set of jargon to boot), but has become tiresome as it dragged into autumn.
While the early exchanges were quite remarkable; his news conference after being named man-of-the-match at Headingley, the YouTube video released declaring his availability for England in all formats – the latter chapters have been closer to a children’s picture book than a le’ Carre thriller in terms of intrigue.
Fans and the media, whatever their views of Pietersen – and there were many willing to accept his permanent absence from the team – are ready to move on. Now, thankfully, it seems the players are too.
Alastair Cook is a pragmatic man, similar in mould to his predecessor Andrew Strauss, and he knows the first challenge England face under his leadership is their toughest.
England haven’t won in India since the winter of 1984/-5, and you’ll find few who think they will this time, given their often rabbit-in-the-headlights approach to playing spin.
But Cook’s squad, which now numbers a hefty 18, do at least have the benefit of a prolonged build-up and lengthy by modern standards four-Test tour – preparation which mimics their last overseas success in Australia two winters ago.
It’s unlikely that certain members of the squad will ever truly see eye-to-eye with Pietersen, and the cordiality of their entente will certainly be tested over weeks in hotel rooms and on numerous flights around the sub-continent – particularly if things are going badly on the pitch.
However, Cook realises that if he’s to make a winning start to his captaincy, he would be foolish not to canvass for the return of his star batsman. Andy Flower, who saw his predecessor Peeter Moores removed after a rift with then skipper Pietersen, will demand continued dedication from his most difficult charge, but appears happy for now.
Pietersen has more experience in India than any of the squad, thanks to his IPL stints and five Tests from two previous tours. Turning some of his proven quality into Test runs is now the key step in his reintergration.