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Apology just the start as Kevin Pietersen goes on probation

Thursday, 4 October 2012 - 1:20pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
If it sounds like something a compulsive shoplifter might have been handed after stealing a pullover, Pietersen could, with good behaviour, be back playing as soon as the tour to India at the end of the month.

Kevin Pietersen has apologised to his team-mates and England supporters but saying sorry will only conclude part of his reintegration after his employers, the England and Wales Cricket Board, placed him on probation after offering him a four-month contract.

If it sounds like something a compulsive shoplifter might have been handed after stealing a pullover, Pietersen could, with good behaviour, be back playing as soon as the tour to India at the end of the month. If that happened and he completes his parole period without a hitch, he will be offered an extension to his four-month contract that will bring him in line with those on full deals.

"I hope I get picked for that, I want to play for England as soon as I can," said Pietersen at a specially organised press conference in Colombo yesterday (Wednesday). "The process has started and I believe, all being well, I'll be back in an England shirt as soon as possible.

"I really believe that we have got a very good opportunity here for everything to be sorted. We're all human beings, we all make mistakes. I've apologised for them and it's now a time to move forward and hopefully have a successful time."

For Pietersen to be in India, the reintegration process must go extremely well over the next three weeks, most of which he will spend in South Africa playing for the Delhi Daredevils in the Champions League. His presence on that tour will enhance England's chances of winning, though if there is one place where team unity is crucial it is the subcontinent, so there are risks.

At the moment, the plan is for him to fly back between games to meet team director Andy Flower and senior players. According to one source Pietersen has spoken to James Anderson by phone, on Tuesday, a conversation said to have been cordial.

Flower will head the process, which Clarke confirmed had already commenced, and will be the sole arbiter of when Pietersen should be reconsidered for selection. Flower looked jaded on Tuesday after England had been knocked out of the World T20, and is clearly in need of a good rest. But instead of spending a quiet three weeks with his family he now has to deal with Pietersen, again.

The ECB has offered him the services of a professional mediator, but it is thought Flower, who Clarke says is fully behind the move to bring Pietersen back into the team, wants to oversee most of it himself.

You sense it would not take much more than a word or two out of place from either side to derail the process, which remains delicate. Apart from the provocative texts sent to South Africa's players during the Test series in the summer, and which Pietersen confirmed to the ECB did not convey any messages that were derogatory about Flower, Andrew Strauss or any employees of the ECB, he clearly feels he has not done much wrong.

Other than those texts his crime seems to have been little more than being a pain in the dressing room and constantly nagging to be allowed to play a full Indian Premier League instead of the three-week window presently allowed. Certainly, neither he nor Clarke was prepared to shed light on other alleged incidents.

"We've talked about the situations that have gone on and for various reasons I don't want to go into other issues," said Pietersen, who was thought to have been unhappy at being lampooned by the fake Twitter account @kpgenius, in which he suspected the involvement of team-mates.

One big stumbling block could still be the texts, over which Pietersen has signed a document confirming the messages, now deleted, were neither derogatory nor contained any tactical information. If they were to surface and contradict his claims then that would be the end of his rehab and his career with England.

Throughout the saga, which has been rumbling on since his "It's difficult being me" press conference after the Headingley Test on Aug 6, the ECB has stood firm. Pietersen, who confirmed his availability in all three formats for England until after the 2015 World Cup, was offered a four-month contract a few weeks ago and turned it down. If he was advised not to sign it he would also have been wary of making an unreserved apology, with its tacit admission of culpability. But apologise he did, yesterday, albeit after weeks of wrangling and brinkmanship.

Looking at this from his team-mates' point of view, he probably does not appear to have been punished much. Absolved of England's debacle in the World T20, during which his stock as a player has risen from being out of the team, he has had six weeks off and been paid a fat fee for being a TV pundit.

Sat next to Clarke, he looked more disengaged than contrite at the press conference, the only hint of remorse coming when his voice cracked slightly when answering one of three questions allowed to be put to him. "I'm fairly happy we've been able to move forward," he said. "It's been a horrible situation for all involved and I'm just glad we're here today drawing a line under everything."

 


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