Flower wants KP to keep quiet
England XI 408-3 v Haryana XI: England coach unsure what century-scoring Pietersen might say with 'reintegration' process incomplete
The process of reintegration continued in silence yesterday. True, the ball pinged off Kevin Pietersen's bat with a happy clang interspersed with the occasional joyous boom.
There were 110 runs from 94 balls, 16 fours and three sixes and the absolute certainty that there could have been more of both, during and after. But he retired out, his day's work done, his match preparations for the first Test against India complete, the woeful attack of the Haryana state XI dismembered here in Ahmedabad. England made 408 for 3 from 90 overs.
It was time then for Pietersen to offer an aperçu or two, the refreshing insight of a man newly restored to the England team, the place where he belongs more than anywhere else in the universe. For a fortnight since this touring squad arrived in India everyone who has been asked – and everyone has been asked – has replied how smooth Kev's return to the dressing room has been.
There had been that unfortunate little business when he was dropped for being beastly and unreasonable but that was all behind them. It has been as though the weeks of acrimony, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, when the entire senior management of the England team were involved and many were probably being kept awake at night by it, never happened.
Party line it might have been but they have spoken like men who not only believed what they were saying but desperately needed to believe it, like Mitt Romney being on the verge of winning the US election. Briefly, it has been combined thus: "Old Kev, he likes a laugh, doesn't he? But now it's forward we look and not backwards."
But when the moment came yesterday, Pietersen, having come off half an hour before the close of the first day of the final warm-up match, declined to comment. His lip was buttoned, he was saying nowt to no one, he was schtum.
Perhaps it was sensible management. Throughout most of a controversially entertaining career, Pietersen has managed to find trouble by offering an opinion. Whether in press conferences, staged or impromptu, or via the more recent tool of Twitter, he has been largely candid, often forthright, sometimes inadvertently so.
But England are a week away from the first Test of a significant series. The team coach, Andy Flower, was reluctant for Pietersen to speak; Pietersen did not want to speak. Flower could not be sure what the player might say if ensnared by some weaselly interrogator; the player wants to concentrate on the cricketing matters to hand.
All well and good. But it demonstrates that the reintegration, a phrase and indeed a process devised by Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, is not over.
When Pietersen and Clarke gave their surreal press briefing in Colombo after the World Twenty20 it was difficult to be sure what might ensue. Clarke spoke of the need to give wrongdoers another chance as if Pietersen was a drug-running recidivist rather than a disaffected member of a cricket team. Pietersen read a personal statement written by another hand.
In the event, Pietersen, who had been omitted from the original squad for this tour after his spectacular dispute with the team, was added to it less than a week later. It was then that the recent past started to be forgotten.
Not airbrushed from history quite but the whole lot of them might as well have lined up outside the dressing room and chanted, after Scarlett O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day." To which the response might have been, as if from Rhett Butler (and there are enough moustaches being grown for Movember to suggest that everybody is trying to be Rhett Butler): "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Pietersen's non-appearance after producing the performance of the day meant he was being treated as a special case. That is because, whatever the management like to say and think, he is a special case. Otherwise, he would have emerged after his seemingly effortless innings and engaged. In his absence, Ian Bell, a lovely batsman and agreeable chap who has never courted trouble, spoken ill of anyone or rocked any boats, was invited to speak to the media. He had made a welcome, unbeaten half-century, sharing a fourth-wicket partnership of 147 with Pietersen as a quiet if not silent partner.
Bell said: "Everything has gone really well for us as a group and for Kevin, so we're really happy. We don't want to put too much pressure on him to be the main reason why we win a Test series. It would be great if he can play the sort of innings he has done in recent times. But I think, as a batting unit, the top six or seven, if we all have good series the bowlers will have the opportunity to get wickets. We know that if he gets in he can change a Test match. We want him in the best nick we can."
After such a rollicking albeit meaningless innings (it would not be in his top 100 except as a spectacle) it would be safe to assume that Pietersen is in decent nick. But only next week can show that to be true. And if he makes a hundred then he will come out and sing like a reintegrated canary.
Compton finds ingredients to open with Cook
Nick Compton strengthened his grip on an England opener slot for the first Test with a 74 against Haryana yesterday to add to his unbeaten 64 in the previous warm-up game.
Batting with captain Alastair Cook for the first time, Compton was assured from the outset as the pair breezed past a century opening stand well before lunch on an even batting surface. They shared a 166-run partnership before the captain was dismissed three runs short of his hundred.
Ian Bell (57 not out) and Jonathan Trott (46) were also among the runs.
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