LONDON (AFP) –
Kevin Pietersen returned to the England team for the upcoming tour of India on Thursday, following his exile for sending provocative texts to opposition players and admitted he was overjoyed to be back.
The decision came after the star batsman met with England coach Andy Flower, Test captain Alastair Cook and other senior players and managers this week to finalise his reintegration into the side.
The Surrey batsman was cast into international exile in August after sending text messages to touring South Africa players that contained criticism of then-England captain Andrew Strauss during the Test series.
The 32-year-old was dropped for the final Test and missed the One-Day series against South Africa and England’s failed defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka, while Strauss retired from all forms of cricket.
South Africa-born Pietersen has since apologised for his behaviour and signed a new central contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) after agreeing to enter a “re-integration” process.
“BOOOOOOOOM!! The happiest days of my career have been playing cricket for ENG. Long may that continue! Thanks everyone for your kind words,” Pietersen tweeted on Thursday.
It was claimed that Flower and several of England’s senior players were initially against Pietersen returning, but that hardline stance has softened in recent weeks as the realisation grew that his absence was seriously damaging the team’s hopes of success.
Cook hinted as much on Wednesday when he said: “The process is well on its way. We do need to draw a line in the sand for the sake of English cricket, but it’s a very important decision that we’ve got to get right.
“We need to move forward as a team. We’ve got an amazing 18 months ahead of us and we need to move together. We want all our world-class players playing for England.”
Pietersen made a brief reference to his trip to England for the meetings when he tweeted on Wednesday: “Short and sweet London. Bye bye!”
Announcing Pietersen’s return to the fold, ECB managing director Hugh Morris said: “We were keen that Kevin should hold a series of face-to-face meetings with team management and senior players before the Test squad departs for the United Arab Emirates and India next week.
“The meetings were constructive and cordial and all outstanding issues have been resolved.
“All the England players and management are now keen to draw a line under this matter and fully focus on the cricketing challenge that lies ahead in India.”
Pietersen is playing with the Delhi Daredevils at the Champions League Twenty20 tournament being held in South Africa. The final is scheduled for October 28.
“We are pleased to welcome a player of Kevin’s proven international calibre back into the Test squad for such an important series,” added ECB national selector Geoff Miller.
“As we anticipate that Ian Bell will return home for the birth of his first child around the time of the second Test in Mumbai, the team will benefit from having an extra batsman in the squad and all players who were originally selected for the tour will fly out as planned next week.
“Kevin will join up with the squad as soon as his Champions League commitments are complete.”