Captain Alastair Cook full of praise for a rehabilitated Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen had a turbulent summer that saw relations between himself and the England and Wales Cricket Board reach an all-time low and briefly found himself exiled from the international set-up.
But after a much-discussed period of “reintegration” the country’s most bankable star made his comeback in the Test tour of India before Christmas, averaging 48.28 in the 2-1 series success and hitting a memorable 186 in Mumbai. His short-term central contract, due to expire at the end of the month, is set to be extended soon and the England captain is among those championing Pietersen’s cause.
England are without plenty of experience for the forthcoming five-match series, with Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Jonathan Trott all rested, meaning Pietersen’s talent and knowledge of the sub-continent could prove crucial.
Pietersen has not played a one-day international since last February, but Cook is delighted he has chosen to reverse his retirement from the format, a decision that came as part of reconciliation talks with the board.
“It is great to have KP back in the one-day side,” said Cook. “I can’t speak highly enough of the way he went about things in India. As a captain, it is great to have a player like him back fresh and desperate to score runs for England.
“That hundred in Mumbai was such an important innings that proved his worth. Hopefully, his experience in these conditions, with the Indian Premier League as well, is something we can use over the next three weeks.”
Pietersen’s return to the 50-over game will be interrupted again when the side visit New Zealand in their next overseas assignment, with Cook confirming the decision is part of the same workload management programme that has seen Trott, Swann and Anderson left behind this month. “We have to look after every player. KP is no different,” said Cook.
“We have looked at things in the past and how we are going to improve them in the future. The rotation of certain players at certain times will benefit players’ longevity.
“We are looking at players’ workload. On this leg of the tour, a few players are getting [a break] and it gives an opportunity for a few other players to come in and stake their claim. We are developing a squad of 15 or 16, which you need to do.
“What we have done very well is that players can get rest at the right time, but you need to do that tour by tour.”
Cook’s vice-captain, Stuart Broad, has had a period of enforced rest after injuring his heel after two disappointing performances in the Test series.
England duly selected him for the last two matches of the ODI leg only and the 26-year-old is set to meet that target.
“He is progressing well, but clearly he had a tough couple of months in India,” said Cook. “The reports are his fitness is improving and he is on course to be available for the fourth and fifth one-day internationals.”
Ashley Giles begins life as England’s limited-overs coach in earnest this week, taking up the baton on the back of a famous Test series win overseen by team director Andy Flower. Given England’s dreadful record in India – they have lost the last two ODI series 5-0 – it is no easy task.