Kevin Pietersen has a vocal supporter in fellow former England captain Sir Geoffrey Boycott as he clings to renewed hope that he might yet play international cricket again.
New England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves has provided the first hint that Pietersen could resume a career which reached an apparently irrevocable full stop when he was sacked 13 months ago. Pietersen was in optimistic mood again yesterday that an unlikely reconciliation could be achieved, tweeting: “Incredibly humbling how supportive you’ve all been since the news broke yesterday from Mr Colin Graves. Gonna try work this out for sure!”
Indications in the 24 hours since Graves’ BBC interview appear to have been less encouraging for the exiled 34-year-old batsman. The ECB issued a statement on Sunday, insisting “nothing has changed” in his status and adding “only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected for England”.
But BBC pundit Boycott has called for face-to-face discussions in which the governing body is “fair” to Pietersen and does not “lead him on” without a true intention to recall him as long as he plays well.
He also suggested that, if key personalities such as ECB managing director Paul Downton and national selector James Whitaker disagree with Graves, they should leave their jobs.
Graves stressed the pre-requisite of any conceivable progress must be a return to county cricket, something Pietersen’s summer Twenty20 contracts in the Indian and Caribbean premier leagues will hardly help. His involvement in English domestic cricket for Surrey last summer was fleeting – exclusively in the NatWest t20 Blast – following his sacking by England.
Downton has spoken on several occasions since then of the record-breaking batsman’s apparent “disengagement” with his team-mates while England were losing the final 2013/14 Ashes Test in Sydney by 281 runs.
Surrey de-registered Pietersen at the end of last season, and are not publicly inclined to reopen negotiations. Boycott has identified clear communication between Pietersen and Graves as the starting point to ensure no new stumbling blocks are created. He told the BBC: “It says to me that Kevin needs to get a meeting with Colin Graves as soon as he can – and, preferably, with Paul Downton and James Whitaker there after he has spoken to the chairman – because he wants to be clear. It’s all right the chairman saying he has to play county cricket. But if he does that and gives up a lucrative IPL contract and Downton and Whitaker are still not going to pick him, that’s kind of like leading him on isn’t it? And that’s not fair.
“It needs to be put clear to him that if he plays well in county cricket then there’s going to be a genuine – and I mean the word genuine – change of heart and change of opinion that he is going to be open for selection and that they are going to put bygones to one side. I don’t think that it is fair to ask anybody to give up an IPL contract – because that’s all he has. He only has Twenty20 around the world.”
Boycott senses Downton and Whitaker could even be expendable, if there is a difference of opinion on Pietersen between them and former Yorkshire chairman Graves. He added: “If Whitaker and Downton can’t accept a change of plan or opinion from the chairman then they have to resign, don’t they?
“It’s simple. They have to do what the chairman tells them, or go. We need to listen to our chairman from Yorkshire. He is no fool. He is very quiet and a nice man – but underneath he has got some steel about him.”
There was, understandably, little engagement in the Pietersen topic from former team-mate Joe Root who has more pressing issues to confront as England try to stay in the World Cup after three defeats in four matches. Root is tipped by many as a future England captain, however, and opinions such as his could yet be pivotal to Pietersen’s chances of a recall.
He made it clear Pietersen is hardly uppermost in his mind at present, but also that he has a good working relationship with the South Africa-born batsman. “We’re in the middle of the World Cup, and there’s plenty of other stuff we need to be focusing on,” said Root.