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September 6, 2012
Alastair Cook will turn his attention to being involved in deciding the future of Kevin Pietersen over the coming days after his international season drew to a close with the final ODI against South Africa.
At the moment, Cook is still due to play for Essex in their final Championship match of the summer against Yorkshire but, for the next month, hands the captaincy of England over to Stuart Broad for the Twenty20 series against South Africa followed by the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
Before that tournament starts it is expected that England will announce their Test squad for the series against India, which starts in mid-November, rather than wait until the team returns from Sri Lanka. The most pressing issue for Cook is the situation involving Pietersen and whether he will be welcomed back into the fold after his very public issues over the summer.
Pietersen is believed to have already met with Andy Flower, the team director, to start the process of trying to solve the stand-off with further talks expected to be held shortly, which is when Cook, who replaced Andrew Strauss as Test captain last week, is likely to become involved.
"I haven't really been thinking about it too much, with the one-day series on," Cook said after the final ODI at Trent Bridge. "Over the next couple of weeks, it's certainly an issue which we as the ECB will have to get resolved. It is a situation which does need to get resolved. There is stuff which needs to be talked about behind closed doors. That will happen."
Flower took a break for the deciding one-day international and is due to link back up with squad ahead of the first Twenty20 international in Durham on Friday. With Cook not involved in the T20I set-up, and the final round of Championship matches taking place next week, there is precious little time for everyone to get round a table together with Pietersen before England fly out to Sri Lanka next Thursday.
Although Pietersen is the dominant subject in the current discussions he will not be the only issue Cook and Flower will need to ponder ahead of the daunting prospect of four Tests in six weeks in India, although Cook is fairly sure what form he wants the squad to take. "I'm pretty clear," he said. "Over the next few days we have to sit down."
Jonathan Trott is expected to be fit despite being diagnosed with a broken finger in his right hand, which has ruled him out for three to four weeks. However, another issue confronting Cook, Flower and the selectors is the likely absence of Ian Bell from the Mumbai Test, with his wife due to give birth.
That is in addition to having to fill the vacancy at the top of the order left by Strauss' retirement. A number of players have been mentioned - Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Joe Root most strongly - plus the option of moving either Trott or Bell up the order.
Jonny Bairstow can expect to be included after his successful return to the team while James Taylor, who made his debut at Headingley, will also be in the mix for a middle-order spot. Ravi Bopara, though, could well find his awful one-day series with the bat against South Africa has put paid to his Test aspirations, although having an Essex team-mate as captain could yet prove useful.
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