D-day for Pietersen as the final call is made for England's tour of India

 

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen's immediate future as an international cricketer will be decided today. All the rational indications are that he will not be picked in the party which will tour India next month to play four Test matches.

But, since nothing has been rational so far in the bizarre affair which has led to a cataclysmic rift between the batsman and the rest of the team, anything is yet possible. The selection panel of four will effectively be told whether Pietersen is eligible.

Hugh Morris, the England managing director, and Andy Flower, the coach who is also one of the selectors, are charged with deciding whether the chasm has been bridged sufficiently for Pietersen to resume his place in the dressing room. If they decide he should be made available, the selectors will pick him.

Pietersen was dropped by England after giving an extraordinary press conference following the second Test against South Africa at Headingley. He said then that several matters needed sorting out in the dressing room and, a few days later, it was revealed that Pietersen had sent text messages about his England team-mates, including Andrew Strauss, the captain at the time, to South Africa players.

Although Pietersen eventually apologised for this, conceding that the texts were provocative, his contrition seemed far from genuine. But the player is equally disturbed by some of the treatment he believes he received in the dressing room.

Without Pietersen, England's Test middle order will seem flimsy. Eoin Morgan, surprisingly awarded a central contract last week, after not being chosen for any of England's last eight Tests, is almost certain to feature in the squad.

Ravi Bopara, who was dropped from the Twenty20 side last night after a wretched run of scores, will almost certainly not. A new opening batsman will be needed to replace the recently retired Strauss and, all in all, it looks a mess.

Much the same can be deduced about the preparations for the defence of the World Twenty20 title. The tournament starts in Sri Lanka next week. In Pietersen's absence, Bopara was to be a key part of the early batting but his game has fallen apart. Into his place at No 3 came Luke Wright, who has batted once for England in the position in his 30 T20 internationals. It does not have the look of a carefully plotted strategy, though that was extremely difficult last night as the second T20 against South Africa was reduced to nine overs a side by heavy rain at Old Trafford.

Luke Wright came into his place at number three last night as England chased a target of 78 in the second Twenty20. Hashim Amla was yet again South Africa's top scorer with 47 from 30 balls and was yet again dropped, this time on 31.

England started slowly, picked up a little and were still just in the hunt at 29 for 2 when the rain came again to end proceedings as a no result in the fifth over of England's reply. In one sense it was good practice. It may be raining in Sri Lanka as well.

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