Kevin Pietersen fails to land new contract but talks continue
The list of central contracts awarded to England players last night was conspicuous for the absence of one name. Kevin Pietersen was not among the 10 men to have been offered one of the lucrative deals, again putting his international future in doubt.
Although the way has been left open for Pietersen to be added later it is highly improbable that peace will break out before the squad is announced for the Test series against India. England are keen to name it on Thursday, the day they leave for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, and that leaves little time for talks to reach a conclusion. To show the delicate nature of the negotiations, all the England and Wales Cricket Board would say was: "In respect to Kevin Pietersen, discussions are ongoing and they remain private."
The surprise on the list is that Eoin Morgan is one of the 10 players to have retained a contract. Although he lost his Test place after a poor tour of the UAE, it confirms that England see him as part of their plans in the longer game sooner rather than later.
Pietersen is one of three players who have been overlooked after being awarded contracts last year. The others are Andrew Strauss, who has retired, and Chris Tremlett, who has been struggling with a chronic back injury. Four players have been awarded incremental contracts: Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Craig Kieswetter and Graham Onions, who is the only addition. Onions deserves the elevation as he has been in all England's Test squads this summer and can consider himself unfortunate to have played only one match.
Pietersen is by no means assured of ever coming back, let alone this winter. He has not played for England since his bizarre post-match press conference at Headingley a month ago when he told the world: "It's tough being me in this dressing room."
Although Pietersen's place in the team was finally made untenable by disparaging text messages he sent about team-mates to members of England's opponents, South Africa, there are other aspects. The meeting between the player and England's coach, Andy Flower, last weekend is thought to have been affable but the fact there has been no resolution makes Pietersen's return less likely.
Flower has frequently been perplexed by Pietersen's demands in the last few months and several of the players would be reluctant to have him around again. Although there is broad agreement with some of Pietersen's original complaints, especially about playing in the Indian Premier League where he stands to make $2m (£1.25m) a year, he has done almost nothing to elicit sympathy.
It has been clear for months that there is the team and then there is Pietersen. Throughout England's many successes in the last few years, he has rarely bothered to attend the celebrations afterwards which has sometimes mystified, sometimes annoyed, the team.
Pietersen probably realises by now that he took a huge gamble after the second Test against South Africa, probably feeling that his spectacular century there made him untouchable. But England responded by dropping him, as if to show categorically that no man is bigger than the team.
Although Pietersen has apologised once for his actions, it was through his agent. He has also rescinded his previous decision to retire from all limited-overs cricket. England must be sure that whatever contrition he shows he means what he says.
The 10 players awarded central contracts are: James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott.
The four awarded incremental contracts are: Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara, Craig Kieswetter and Graham Onions.
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