Kevin Pietersen's rocky road to England return
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will have a new boss in May. Colin Graves is slated to takeover from Giles Clarke with an objective of transforming the fortunes of English cricket.
Graves is known as the man who saved Yorkshire and supervised makeover of the county from a financial crisis to ultimately winning the domestic championship.
There is no doubt, Graves is the right man for the job and has made all the right noises as he prepares to take the hot seat.
An array of challenges await Graves in his new job, none more high-profile than settling the debate around maverick batsman Kevin Pietersen's England future.
Pietersen was sacked by the ECB post England's Ashes debacle in Australia. In the wake of his exit, England appear to have reached their nadir in ODI cricket.
A mauling at the hands of Test-playing nations at the ICC World Cup, an apotheosis of which resulted in their ouster at the hands of Bangladesh, hasn't helped matters.
The ignominy of constant defeats has led to a consolidation of public sentiment in favour of the 34-year-old's return.
Whether a fairytale Ashes return would eventually materialize would depend on multiple factors, most of which do not favor KP.
For now, three statements from the three most important stakeholders in this debate are all one has to asses the situation by.
Graves seems to have reignited it when he said the first step back for Pietersen was to play county cricket.
Understandly excited about returning to the England set up again, Pietersen, who is currently without a county side, said: "I'm going to try to work this out for sure."
The current ECB establishment, responsible for KP's ouster, issued a clarification through a spokesperson asserting, "Nothing has changed. Only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected."
All said and done, quite a few stumbling blocks continue to persist that could eventually deter KP from making a return to the national side.
English cricket's domestic competition starts on April 12. That would make it fairly difficult for KP to participate in the county season considering his existing commitments.
The former Surrey batsman was bought by Sunrisers Hyberabad in IPL 8 auction for the entire duration of the tournament, which is scheduled to take place between April 8 and May 24.
He is also due to feature in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) that will happen in June and July. KP may have media duties to fulfill in the summer as well.
If mounting pressure on the selectors purely by the weight of runs in county cricket is the only way KP can force their hand at picking him, the former England skipper will have to opt out of the cash-rich T20 leagues to pave way for his participation in domestic cricket.
When the axe came down on KP's international career, his 'negative' influence on the dressing room was cited as the chief reason by the team management. James Whitaker as chief selector and Paul Downton as managing director of England cricket continue to call the shots with regards to squad selection and player call-ups.
Would the same people, who had previously been scathing in their criticism of Pietersen, welcome him back without reservation is another question that needs to be answered.
Assuming KP ticks all the boxes that merit a recall, two more key individuals would then come into the picture. Alastair Cook, captain of the test side and Peter Moores, coach of England, both share dubious equations with Pietersen.
KP had a fallout with Moores when he was first appointed England captain in 2008. In his recently released autobiography, the batsmen was critical of Moores' methods and ability as a coach.
With Cook, KP's grouse was that his captain failed to stand up for him at the time of getting the sack post the Ashes series. In KP's words, 'Cook kept staring at the floor' while the decision of ousting him was being communicated.
Hence in order for KP to return, they will have to be put through an embarrassing situation and a need to issue a clarification with regards to their previous views on the player.
Two of England's premier bowlers - James Anderson and Stuard Broad have been accused of 'bullying' by KP. Hence his possible return is not only bound to ruffle a few feathers but also unsettle the internal team dynamics.
At 34, KP has some hard thinking to do and tough decisions to take. Having invested in a nightclub, a fashion label, a salon, a lounge and a cricket academy, playing cricket is no longer about money for him.
Of late, KP has spent more time on Wentworth's golf course than on a cricket field, suggesting he has well and truly entered the end phase of his playing career.
At such a time, a statement from Graves appeared to open the door on his return. However, the incoming chairman seems to have spoken out of turn, for the board's executives do not share the same views as was made clear by the ECB spokesperson.
KP remains England's highest run-scorer across all formats, boasts of a better average than any batsmen part of their World Cup squad and the country's only cricketer who still commands space on the front page of tabloids.
If KP has a strong desire to wear the England jersey, he will have to give up the IPL and all its shebang that he so loves and play buffet bowling in county cricket for a shot at a possible second 're-integration'.
With ECB's stance relatively unchanged, the road to return is indeed rocky for Kevin Pietersen who continues to remain the square peg in the round hole of English cricket.
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