The exiled batsman, 34, had his central contract cancelled by the England and Wales Cricket Board in February last year and has been repeatedly told his chance of a comeback was zero. That was until the incoming ECB chairman, Colin Graves, who takes over from Giles Clarke in May, appeared to hint at a softening of the board’s stance in two interviews a fortnight ago.
Graves pointed to the fact that the batsman had no county contract as a result of his upcoming summer deals to play for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, which runs until the end of May, and the St Lucia Zouk’s in June and July’s Caribbean equivalent, thus making a comeback impossible.
But he then went on to suggest that were that not to be the case, a glut of county runs could in theory force the hands of the selectors. An ECB statement followed that Sunday night insisting the situation had not changed – but Pietersen’s ears were already pricked.
And now, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph – the newspaper for which the exiled batsman is a paid columnist – Pietersen is considering pulling out of his £205,000 IPL contract, which could make a deal to play championship cricket a possibility.
While runs would be a must, his return has other obstacles in the shape of the ECB’s managing director, Paul Downton, who was the man who carried out his removal from the set-up, just days after officially starting his own job, and the national selector James Whitaker who has previously stated there is no way back.
But the Guardian understands another perceived hurdle, the prospect of him playing under the head coach, Peter Moores, the man who was sacked from his first spell in the job in early 2009 after clashing with then-captain Pietersen, might not be as great a problem as first thought.
Moores has always maintained a silence on all matters Pietersen and, despite being criticised heavily in Pietersen’s incendiary autobiography last October, is privately understood to be more relaxed on the subject than those who ended his England career 14 months ago.
The former Lancashire coach started his second spell in charge of England after the events in Australia, during the Ashes whitewash, that caused relationships in the camp to break down. His job, despite assurances, remains in doubt too, given the recent failed World Cup campaign.
Surrey look his likeliest destination – the county ended their interest in him while he was looking to play as a Twenty20 specialist – while Pietersen has recently claimed he has received other offers since Graves made his comments.
England’s first Test match of the summer is against New Zealand at Lord’s on 21 May, four days before the IPL final. Should he intend to back out of his deal with Sunrisers, he would need to move fast in arranging a county deal with the season starting on 12 April.
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