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February 10, 2014
Stewart hails Pietersen deal as great for English cricket
Surrey have agreed terms with Kevin Pietersen for the 2014 season and are hoping the batsman England no longer want will bring them a Twenty20 bonanza instead.
Pietersen will play in the revamped NatWest T20 Blast which is scheduled mainly on Friday nights from May to July, ensuring that he will still be seen on English cricket grounds as he faces a T20-orientated future.
He even hinted on Twitter that although his deal was specifically designed for T20, a game or two in the Championship could not be ruled out, but that might have been due to his relief that Surrey had remained committed to him.
Surrey already pull in some of the biggest T20 crowds in the country and Pietersen is bound to add to the attraction despite the troubles for the county which saw them relegated in the Championship last season.
Details of his arrangement are not clear. England are thought to have paid off his central contract until September - although typically no official details have been released - and even if Pietersen could have put his feet up, it is in his best interests to play as much T20 cricket as possible as long as IPL franchises remain interested. He will know the result of that interest later this week.
There was no sense of concern about Pietersen's commitment to the cause from Alec Stewart, Surrey's director of cricket, and a man regarded in his playing days as a bit of a stickler for behaviour.
"We are delighted to have agreed terms with Kevin, and to have a player of his ability at the Kia Oval," Stewart told Surrey TV. "Unsurprisingly there was a great deal of interest in Kevin from around the world, but he has made it very clear that he wants to play at Surrey.
"It is not only good news for the club but for the domestic game in this country. We are now looking forward to watching him in the middle, scoring a bucketload of runs for Surrey.
"It all happened quickly and it was very straightforward. Now I am looking forward to seeing Kevin in a Surrey shirt. Once his IPL commitments are finished he is available for Surrey. It is predominantly a Twenty20 deal but that is not to say we won't see him in a 50-over or a Championship game."
Marcus Trescothick became a big draw at Somerset when time was called prematurely on his England career because of a stress-related illness. It is a shame that Nottinghamshire have yet to suggest they are seeking to persuade Graeme Swann to keep himself in shape enough to play in T20 cricket: certainly his chronic elbow condition could cope with it.
Stewart suggested that the Caribbean Premier League was Pietersen's other option. "There was competition from the Caribbean League but Kevin made it very clear that he wanted to play here at Surrey. Everything had to fit in within the salary cap and the cricket budget which I am charge off. I don't want anyone to think we have spent millions on one player. We haven't. He is playing for Surrey for the right reasons. He wanted to play for Surrey and made that very clear.
It is not just great for Surrey. It is great for the domestic game as well. It will give the Twenty20 Blast a great little lift off. He is appreciative of the fact that Surrey took him on board when he finished with Hampshire. We also appreciate what he has done for us in the games he has played for us in the last three years. There haven't been many but he has made it clear he likes walking through the gates here."
Pietersen, whose public utterances have been limited since his England freeze-out to a couple of gnomic comments on Twitter, sounded just as enthusiastic, inspiring the belief that now his England career is over he could be about to enter his most productive county cricket phase as he seeks to keep himself in the shop window for T20 around the world.
"I'm absolutely delighted to have agreed terms with Surrey and am thoroughly looking forward to playing my cricket for the club this summer. I've had some of my best moments in cricket at the Kia Oval and I'm really excited at the prospect of getting back out there playing in what will hopefully be a brilliant summer for us all at Surrey."
He added on Twitter: "Happy Monday everyone. My day is shaping up to be a lot more enjoyable than this time last week." He even revealed want he called his "new profile picture" - wearing a Surrey T20 shirt.
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