Central-contract deadline looming for England batsman Kevin Pietersen

 

The clock is ticking on Kevin Pietersen's status as a centrally-contracted England cricketer.

If the controversial South Africa-born batsman cannot agree a new deal by October 1, next Monday, then he will cease to be an employee of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

For the first time since Pietersen burst on the international scene with his Ashes-clinching exploits at The Oval seven years ago, he would therefore become a free agent.

Following his summer of contract wrangles with the ECB, and breakdown of his working relationship with former Test captain Andrew Strauss and England coach Andy Flower, Pietersen's name was absent from the list of central deals announced at the start of this month.

Last week, it is understood he turned down the offer of a four-month - rather than the conventional annual - contract, and was subsequently left out of the squad due to tour India for four Tests from the end of next month.

The 32-year-old is also missing from England's defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown, a campaign set to resume today with a crucial Super Eight match against West Indies at Pallekele.

As England won through to the second stage of this tournament, Pietersen has been confined to a Colombo broadcast studio to attend to his lucrative duties as a television pundit.

Amid reports today suggesting he may consider a possible legal action against the ECB, should no new contract be forthcoming in the next four days, mixed messages continue to emanate on the success or otherwise of his negotiations with his employers.

Pietersen's central contract could be reinstated at any time, even after Monday's deadline, and he recently told the world - via his Twitter feed - of his optimism that the situation is "all sorted" and he hopes to be back in the England fold in time to tour New Zealand early next year.

His well-chronicled disputes with the ECB appeared initially to centre on his wish to play a full Indian Premier League campaign next spring, at a time when England have Test match obligations.

He subsequently committed himself to play for England, whenever selected, in all formats - but was nonetheless dropped from the team for last month's Lord's Test against his native South Africa, because of the content of "provocative" text messages he had sent to opposition players during the previous match at Headingley.

Flower has made it clear more than once that the details of those texts - whether or not they contained "derogatory" references to Strauss - remain a major sticking point, among others.

It therefore still remains to be seen whether Pietersen will ever play for his adopted country again.

PA

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