Kevin Pietersen may return to the England side in time for the Test tour of India next month. That seems to be the intention after he apologised yesterday for his behaviour and signed a new temporary contract.
He will hold a series of meetings with his erstwhile team-mates in the next few weeks at which they will discuss their differences. It was described at an unprecedented press conference in Colombo as the start of a process of "reintegration".
Pietersen has not played for England since being dropped for the third Test against South Africa in August. He had declared his unhappiness about several aspects of life in the England dressing room after which it transpired he had sent text messages to opponents about his team-mates.
Nothing is certain about the date of his return, just as nothing has been certain in the whole sorry saga so far, but there seems to be a sense of urgency. Pietersen has signed a four-month contract with the hope that it will be extended until next September. He is in Sri Lanka at present as a television pundit for the World Twenty20 tournament and is soon due to play for Delhi Daredevils in the T20 Champions League in South Africa.
But he has agreed to make trips back to England during breaks in the competition to try to regain the trust and respect of the rest of the team and the management. Professional mediators will be available to Andy Flower, the team coach, if he feels the need. Flower's position has been strengthened during the dispute and England are determined to keep him until at least the 2015 World Cup.
Pietersen and Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, each read prepared statements to a hastily convened briefing in the bowels of a Colombo hotel yesterday. After that they took three questions, with the questioners designated by them.
"I'd just like to take this opportunity to apologise to my team-mates, all England supporters and the ECB for the situation that has arisen in the last couple of months but thankfully we have drawn a line under it and it is time to move forward," said Pietersen. "I'd like to make it very clear that at no time did I share tactical information with any of the South Africans or South African management."
Clarke was much more dramatically poetic. Summoning up memories of Olivier playing Henry V, he said: "In our society we believe that when an individual transgresses and when the individual concerned recognises that and apologises, that it is important that that individual should be given a real opportunity to be reintegrated into our society.
"Kevin has apologised and he has said further things today that are important. I would like to say that following today's discussions the ECB and Kevin will consider the matter as closed and no further questions on the subject will be taken."
In many ways, the briefing clouded the issue instead of clearing it. The mystery of the text messages, or more precisely the BlackBerry Messages (BBMs), which were the tipping point in the schism between Pietersen and the team, remained unresolved.
The messages to unspecified South Africa players have disappeared into the ether. Pietersen had already conceded, as he did again yesterday, that they were provocative but their content may never be known.
An ECB statement said of the BBMs that Pietersen had given "a binding assurance" that they contained no tactical information and from the best of his recollection contained nothing derogatory about the captain, the coach or ECB employees.
From that it was difficult to deduce the wrongdoings of which Pietersen might be guilty. But he seemed happy to admit there had been wrongdoings, not least because it had taken six weeks to reach this point.
He said: "I am entirely committed to completing the reintegration process we have agreed over the coming weeks and recommencing my England career in all formats hopefully until 2015 as long as my body allows. I want my son to grow up watching me playing for England and I hope one day that he will put on an England shirt himself."
Clarke added: "Andy Flower will determine the progress and he will advise the board when he believes the dressing room and the management and Kevin himself are ready for Kevin to be reconsidered for selection."
The feeling is that now it has come this far, the players will want him back sooner rather than later.Reuse content