No England tour worth its salt is complete without Kevin Pietersen playing a prominent part, usually as the pantomime villain. In this ill-starred venture to India, where the tourists lost the one-day international series 5-0, he has left it late.
But Pietersen is now in a race against time to be fit for the solitary remaining match, a Twenty20 international at Eden Gardens tomorrow. England are desperate to win the match because they are No 1 in the world, according to the new ICC ratings, and India have wiped the floor with them in the previous fortnight.
And Pietersen is desperate to play, if his fractured thumb allows, because he loves India and what it has to offer. A cynic might suppose that one of the things it has to offer is the Indian Premier League and its vast salaries.
If Pietersen could play for England and make an impression it would do no harm to his value when contracts come to be renegotiated and player auctions held in January. In the inaugural IPL he was the most valued player at more than £1m but that was reduced last time out after bouts of indifferent form and injury.
He has already stated his intention of playing in IPL V next year, having missed the 2011 version, IPL IV, because of the hernia which forced him out of England's World Cup campaign. The official team bulletin on Pietersen yesterday said: "He will have a fitness test on Friday. He is still rated as extremely doubtful for Saturday."
England would dearly like a fit Pietersen in their ranks. He was player of the tournament as they became World Twenty20 champions last year and certainly has a zest for the shortest form of the game which eluded him in its early days when he said that he "played silly shots for a silly game".
Until his injury, sustained in the field during the fourth one-dayer in Mumbai and which is heavily strapped, Pietersen was in bubbly form both and on off the field. He has taken to India and India has taken to him, for several reasons on both sides.
England visited a charitable foundation yesterday and will finalise their XI for the T20 match today. Form, rather than rankings, suggests they will have their work cut out to win. The side will be led by Graeme Swann.Reuse content