For Alastair Cook, right now, the first rule of KP club is: you don't talk about KP club.
Present in his role as England captain to announce the formal launch of the buildup to next season's ICC Champions Trophy, the last edition of a competition reanimated only to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the World Test Championship, Cook was assailed instead by the expected questions about the ongoing reintegration of England's exiled middle-order prince.
"I can't tell you all the details but the meetings have been going on and the process is well on the way," Cook said, speaking inside the vertiginous sky-loft room of London's Millbank Tower, a venue tinged with a fitting sense of the spin doctor's dark arts. Cook himself met Pietersen on Wednesday part of a series of one-on-ones between England's penitent Test match No4 and senior colleagues – complete with lurking conflict resolution officers – currently taking place in Oxford, intended to soothe the ructions, personal and professional, from a troubled summer.
If Cook was familiarly stubborn in shedding the barest flicker of light on the question of whether reintegration seemed imminent at this stage, it is still more likely than not that all being well in Oxford that Pietersen will be included in England's touring parties to India. An England and Wales Cricket Board board meeting is scheduled for Friday, which would presumably be a good moment to make a decision. All that is certain is that time is running out: England leave for India next Thursday.
If Cook was immovable on the KP briefings, he was a little more forthcoming on the subject of how all this affects his own job of reconvening, as multi-format captain for the first time in Tests, an England team fractured by both dissension and defeat this summer.
"We do need to draw a line in the sand at some stage for the sake of English cricket," Cook said. "We've got an amazing 18 months ahead of us and we need to move together. We all know how important team harmony is and team ethos is and that showed when we were successful – how tight we were as a side. We know that's a very important thing in the making of good sides."
If the Champions Trophy seems perhaps a rather indistinct prospect at this distance, it is undeniably a significant part of that year and a half to come, a period of unusually intense engagement for England's tyro Test captain that includes the tour to India, an Ashes series and what would be, for Cook, a first tournament appearance for the senior England team ("I can't wait to see what it's like") having missed also the recent World Twenty20, a competition in which England's callow batting lineup did seem to miss a little of the more weathered influence Cook, Pietersen or Matt Prior might have brought.
"I didn't watch too much of it, "Cook said. "I clearly had a big interest in the England games, I did record them and flicked through them pretty much when I came back from the farm.
"I think if you're being totally honest sometimes the inexperience showed in certain circumstances. I think what it will do is grow them as players, you do need experience like that to grow as a player and realise where you've got to improve. As a side you're always looking for your senior players to step up and the senior players weren't there."
Also absent in India, of course, will be Andrew Strauss, out of whose shadow Cook must now forge his own Test match momentum, albeit not without some assistance when required. "I have spoken to him a few times since he's retired," Cook said. "Clearly he is a friend and I've played so much cricket with him, but one of the biggest things is you've got to do it your way and you can't do it Strauss's way. But he is definitely on the other end of the phone if I need him."
With the Pietersen question rearing its head again – asked if his own meeting with his errant batsman had been good, Cook was reduced to dead-batting back with "All meetings are good" – there was perhaps a glimpse of something closer to the truth in the familiar commonplaces about needing "to pick from the best players you can".
Self-evidently so, perhaps, but few things have seemed quite that easy in the KP debacle of the last few months. Reintegration or disintegration: with England due to reconvene at Heathrow next week an end is at least in sight.
Alastair Cook was speaking at the launch of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 which is to be held in June 2013 at The Oval, Cardiff and Edgbaston
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