Pietersen firmly back in England fold after signing central contract
Having signed a new central contract, Kevin Pietersen can focus on becoming one of England’s best ever, writes Matt Cansick
Kevin Pietersen appears to have completed his “reintegration” following the very public fall-out that dominated last summer’s news by signing a full central contract with the ECB, ensuring an unwelcome distraction has been put to bed ahead of a huge year for English cricket.
The England batsman is once again eligible for all three forms of the game, having previously wanted to retire from one-day internationals, while remaining available for Tests and Twenty20 matches.
He has now come full circle after being dropped for the final Test against South Africa for sending ‘provocative texts’ to members of the opposition dressing room, although he had already played a leading role in the series victory over India before Christmas.
His value as a world-class batsman has never been in question, yet he was still fortunate to have a captain and coach who were pro-active in seeking a swift and effective solution that would enable him to continue contributing to a close knit team.
At 32, Pietersen should have at least five more years at the top. Having amassed 92 Test appearances so far, the next target will be to join the list of players – which currently stands at just nine – with 100 Test caps.
Assuming he will not be rested during either of the series against New Zealand, he should reach this landmark against Australia in the third Test at Old Trafford in August. If one considers his debut came at the age of 25, it is clear to see his continuing value to the team since that first appearance at Lord’s in 2005.
From a batting perspective, Pietersen will now look to the record books, and that of most Test centuries by an England batsman.
Alastair Cook has moved clear at the top of the list having hit his 23rd hundred against India at Eden Gardens. Pietersen however is just one behind on 22, and while Cook is almost certain to end up as the record holder owing to his being four years younger, the record could conceivably change hands several times before the former retires.
Of more importance to Cook will be Pietersen’s role as a game changer, with back-to-back Ashes series scheduled for the next twelve months.
After making such an explosive debut against the Australians in the epic 2005 contest, and starring in the most recent victory Down Under, he will again be expected to act as a linchpin of an evolving batting line-up that may well contain several players making their Ashes debut.
He has made no secret of his desire to be remembered as one of England’s greatest-ever batsmen, and having regularly demonstrated his ability to perform on the biggest stage, particularly against Australia, he has the chance to solidify his place in the list of Test greats.
There is no doubt that he will continue to divide opinion after he retires, regardless of his performances between now and the end of his career.
Flamboyant and frequently outspoken, the events of 2012 have not painted him in a favourable light.
He may not be able to control what people will say about his personality, but his record as a batsman is something that does lie in his hands.
The more time that passes, the more aware he will be that his time as the mainstay of England’s top order is coming to an end.
It’s a fair bet that he will make every effort to finish on a high, and in the coming years we could well see the best of the mercurial talent that is Kevin Pietersen.