The Ashes: All is forgiven as Kevin Pietersen is tipped to hit Aussies for six
The prospect of two Ashes series has helped smooth over last year's dressing-room divide
Everybody is being jolly nice about Kevin Pietersen. In return Kevin is being jolly nice to everybody. Except perhaps those beastly chaps from the Press who are not former international cricketers, but then they can look after themselves.
Pietersen will return to the England side for the start of an Ashes series in which he is confidently expected to feature prominently. His reintegration to the England team, which looked as though it would never happen 10 months ago, appears now to be complete.
"Yeah, he's looked really good in the nets these last couple of days and obviously that 177 he scored for Surrey [against Yorkshire] shows that although he's been away from the game for a long period of time he's ready to play," said Alastair Cook, the captain who wanted him back. "It's not just down to him but he loves the big occasion and it won't surprise me if he scores a hell of a lot of runs."
They are all chums together. Members of a team who were sick of the sight and the sound of their stellar performer then, have become much more sanguine about his presence. Pietersen has toned down the ego.
If it lasts, it will be remembered as a superb example of rehabilitation which the prison service of this country could only dream about. It may be too late for him to be remembered with lasting affection by the public which, make no mistake, will irk and perplex him. Nobody should doubt that Pietersen was a man alone last summer. He had drained the spirit, if not the will, of Andy Flower, a principled, admirable coach.
Pietersen had valid points but the manner in which he made them conveniently overlooked the ethos of a team game. If he has made the effort since – and he has – then England will truly be the better for it in every way.
The colour may still have drained from some faces, however, when Pietersen announced in one of only two interviews he intends to do this summer, with Darren Gough on talkSPORT, that he wanted to play until he had scored 10,000 Test runs.
Until then it had been generally felt – to the relief of many in and out of the dressing room – that he might wander into the Twenty20 sunset after the second of these two successive Ashes series, which finishes in early January. But even Pietersen, with 7,499 runs, will not score another 2,501 in the next 10 matches.
That little piece of information apart, that interview with Gough was pretty self-serving. The other interview, on the BBC Five Live with Andrew Flintoff, was more pertinent. Flintoff has had his run-ins with the Press and he does not much like them either, but his misgivings at his treatment gave him an insight into – and an empathy with – Pietersen which was not always present when they shared a dressing room.
Pietersen has lived most of his life in England protesting that few understand what it is like to be him. He may be right but he has not explained his recent change of stance in the dressing room and it is clear that neither he nor the England management expects that.
Graeme Swann, one of his least fervent supporters, offered the party line, which may of course be the truthful line, the other day: "Since he has come back he has been great. That reintegration that took place before India, I think that was important for the team and for Kevin especially and he responded very well to it.
"He was exceptional in India not only on the field but also he changed his demeanour off it as well and really became a positive part of the side. We have absolutely no issues with Kev, he doesn't seem to have any issues with the team and that bodes well for the next six weeks."
Whether it can last beyond that must always be open to doubt where Pietersen is concerned.
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