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August 11, 2012
Kevin Pietersen may have pulled off a career-saving performance as outrageous as anything he has achieved on the pitch by unconditionally committing himself to play for England in all formats of the game and apologising for the behaviour that led to speculation about dressing room rifts and his premature retirement.
In another development late on Saturday, the ECB announced that the squad for the third Test against South Africa would be delayed until 2.30pm on Sunday having originally been set for 9.30am, inviting the belief that England's selectors, having picked the squad for the final Test at Lord's, had been forced back into an emergency session.
Pietersen, who was facing the prospect of being dropped by England following a series of incidents that appeared to have driven a wedge between him and the rest of the England team, has retracted his request to play a full IPL season, reversed his retirement from international limited-overs cricket and withdrawn many of the comments he made in an emotional press conference following the second Test at Leeds. In a personally arranged video interview, Pietersen expressed his unconditional return for England in all forms of the game.
"I want to commit to all forms of cricket for England because I love playing for England," Pietersen said. "I am wanting to play all three forms of cricket again for England: the ODIs against South Africa in a couple of weeks and the T20 World Cup if I am selected. I want to make myself available for every single format of cricket for England.
"I am absolutely not insisting on playing the full IPL season. I am taking that all back. I will not be playing the full IPL. I will come back and play in the Tests against New Zealand next year.
"I've realised what is important to be. I've realised I can be happy. I've realised how much I love playing for England. I've realised that the last three or four days would be a sad way to go after all the happiness I've enjoyed. I'd hate to leave playing for England and I'd hate to leave all the spectators and fans this way.
"The stubbornness I've got sometimes - which is probably not a good thing as well - has led me to try to believe myself for too long and I've got to a point now where I've gone: play for England. This is what you love and this is what I want to do.
"I am fully committed and passionate about playing for England. I want to play for England. That is why I want to get back playing in all three formats of the game for England. I love doing what I do and I don't want to disappoint people.
"I've had a change of heart because of the reasons I stated. I love playing cricket for England.
"Money is not everything to me. I love winning for England. I loved the runs I scored at Headingley. I can't wait to play in Straussy's 100th Test next week. These things make me happy. Winning makes me happy.
"I understand that I have a short career. I can't do this until I'm 40. I have a young family and I'm the provider. I need to maximise my opportunities financially in order to have protection in later life. It's not all about money. I love playing for England and the runs I score for England mean so much more to me."
Pietersen accepted that his comments in Monday night's press conference following the second South Africa Test at Leeds had been emotional and unhelpful, but said he had held long discussions with a teammate in which many problems had been resolved.
"There's a press conference I did on Monday which I didn't handle in the right way," Pietersen said. "I was very emotional. I am who I am. I do make mistakes.
"The mood in the dressing room, in the last 24 hours, has been sorted out. I had a really good long chat with a team-mate of mine yesterday. We went through everything. We went through differences. We went through everything. I finished that conversation a very happy bloke and somebody who can't wait to meet with the team on Tuesday.
"I didn't handle the press conference well at all. I was in an emotional state. I did think there was a possibility it might be my penultimate Test. I said things I shouldn't have said. I know I have to clear things up. I want to clear things up.
"I need to pull towards the team. The team will need to pull towards me. I believe, in the last 24 hours, that's been done."
Words are one thing, of course. It is Pietersen's actions that will be scrutinised over the coming weeks and months by a dressing room that is somewhat jaded by recent events. There will be those in England's limited-overs teams, in particular, whose own positions are jeopardised by Pietersen's return. The World T20 team was picked at Edgbaston on Friday and must be announced by August 18. Whether Pietersen's backtracking has come in time remains to be seen.
But there can be no doubt that any England team is considerably strengthened by a Pietersen that feels respected, needed and appreciated. The brinksmanship between the ECB and Pietersen took their relationship to the edge over recent days but, once again, the uncompromising attitudes of Andy Flower would appear to have been vindicated.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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