Flower expects Pietersen to find a county by 2011
Kevin Pietersen will need to find a new county before the start of next season as part of his contractual obligations to the England & Wales Cricket Board, according to England's coach, Andy Flower.
Pietersen was one of four England players released from duty to take part in the Friends Provident t20 finals day at Rose Bowl on Saturday, but whereas Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad were welcomed back into the fold by their respective counties, Essex and Nottinghamshire, Pietersen's employers Hampshire announced that they had no intention of selecting the batsman.
The stand-off was triggered by Pietersen's unilateral declaration, earlier in the summer, that he would be seeking a new base to fit in with his family lifestyle, with the London-based clubs, Surrey and Middlesex, being the only realistic options for a man who does not want to commute too far from his home in Chelsea.
For now, however, he remains in limbo, with Hampshire refusing to select him, just as they did when he was released to play in a CB40 fixture against Kent prior to the Lord's Test against Pakistan last month. And while Flower said he was unconcerned by Pietersen's itinerant status in the lead-up to this winter's Ashes, he said he believed that the ECB would expect their star player to be settled before the start of the 2011 home summer.
"I wouldn't be overly concerned if he hasn't sorted out his county situation by the time we get under way in Australia," said Flower. "But I think the ECB policy will be that all of our international players must be contracted to a county."
Pietersen has been struggling for form at Test level this year, although he did top-score for England with an unconvincing 80 in the nine-wicket victory over Pakistan at Edgbaston this week. He has not scored an international hundred in any form of the game since the Trinidad Test against West Indies in March 2009, but Flower was unconcerned by the loss of match practice in a form of the game that is far removed from the challenge that awaits at The Oval next week.
"It doesn't worry me because this is what we expected," Flower said. "I was asked a question about whether he would be made available and I said yes he would, although I expected Hampshire to maintain their position that they didn't want to pick him. If we felt very strongly about it and, for instance, there were first-class games that we wanted him to play leading up to a Test series, we would have sat down and spoken at greater length with Hampshire.
"But considering it was only a 40-over game leading up to the Test series and again this is only 20-over cricket this weekend, I don't think it is worth creating any issue over it."