Kevin Pietersen misses New Zealand Tests to be ready for Ashes battle
England take no fitness chances with batsman whose bruised knee is worse than first thought
England's determination to ensure that Kevin Pietersen is available for this summer's Ashes at all costs became perfectly evident. He will miss the two Tests against New Zealand next month and, although there is nothing official yet, it would be no surprise if he were also absent from the one-day series which follows.
When Pietersen withdrew from the final Test in New Zealand three weeks ago it was because he was suffering from bone bruising in his right knee. By the time an updated medical bulletin was issued, this had been upgraded to significant bone bruising, which seems to suggest his injury has either been aggravated during his rest or was much worse than initially suggested.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said that Pietersen will have a repeat scan on the injury next week to determine when he can resume training. Pietersen has lately published photographs of the joint in question on his Twitter account as if to confirm that he is, indeed, struggling.
If nothing else, England's decision to remove him from consideration for the first series of the summer should go some way to alleviating concerns about his workload. They were one of myriad bugbears which almost brought his international career to an end last summer.
After being dropped from the final Test of last summer's series against South Africa, he had to endure a brief period of re-integration, which included having a series of clear-the-air one-to-one talks with senior dressing-room colleagues and management.
He returned to the side for the tour of India – having been omitted from the original squad – and produced one of his most definitive innings, of 186, in Mumbai which played an important part in levelling a series which England eventually won. It was during that epic stay of a little more than five hours that England probably realised how much they still needed Pietersen, though the feeling should be entirely reciprocated.
In the early part of this year he was much less engaged in New Zealand and, if his knee injury was not a mere convenience to allow him to escape the last Test as well as his duties in the Indian Premier League, it certainly seemed not to be as bad as the release indicated. The next scan now seems to be all important.
Pietersen will need at least two first-class matches before the start of the fist Test against Australia at Trent Bridge on 10 July. All roads lead there and Pietersen will have to be match-honed by then. His absence will provide an intriguing sideshow between two Yorkshire batsmen early in the summer. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are both likely to be picked against New Zealand, with only one place available for the Ashes, assuming Pietersen returns.
England are taking no chances with him, or with any other injured player. If necessary they will also wrap Graeme Swann in cotton wool. For all the noise about the importance of the series against New Zealand, Australia are already dominating the season.
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