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December 19, 2012
Kevin Pietersen's return to the England set-up is likely to be given a final stamp of authority by the ECB with the upgrading of his four-month central contract to a full, year-long one.
Pietersen, who was dropped from the squad during the Test series against South Africa after a breakdown in relations with the dressing room, was given a short-term contract at the beginning of October, after England's exit from the World Twenty20. That would run up until the end of January but Andy Flower, England's team manager, indicated that Pietersen's "reintegration" had gone smoothly and a new contract, covering home and away series against New Zealand and the Ashes, will be a formality.
"The contract won't be a problem," Flower said. "Kevin has been excellent in every way. We don't all always get on with people all of the time - any of us in any walk of life - and everyone has made an effort to make it work."
The temporary arrangement allowed Pietersen to be selected for England's tour of India, where they secured a first Test series win since 1985. Pietersen made a crucial century in the series-levelling win in Mumbai and ended as England's second-highest run-scorer, and Flower was keen to praise his efforts. "It's been really good fun and he should be very proud of the way he's operated out here, both as an individual and as a player," he said.
Pietersen, along with the majority of England's Test squad, has returned home after being rested for the two-match T20 series with India, which begins on Thursday. He will be part of the ODI squad flying back out to India in January and is set to play his first one-day match in almost a year, since scoring back-to-back hundreds in England's 4-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the UAE.
Just a few months later, Pietersen announced his surprise retirement from limited-overs international cricket, setting off a chain of events that culminated in his exclusion from the England set-up but Flower insisted the issues had been fully resolved.
"We did move on from it as soon as we had our meetings and everyone made a commitment to do so," Flower said of the behind-the-scenes process to smooth Pietersen's return to the squad. "I want to continue that, moving forward. We want to learn from the past, but we don't want to keep on revisiting it."
While Pietersen has been included for the five ODIs against India, James Anderson and Jonathan Trott have been rested, in line with England's move towards a more flexible selection policy. Pietersen's temporary retirement was in part down to a feeling that too much was being demanded of England cricketers and the message appears to have been heeded, and even extended to the management. The ODI series will be Ashley Giles' first in charge of the limited-overs sides, with Flower taking a more back-seat role.
"We want to make this new coaching structure work for English cricket like we did the three captains," Flower said. "It's not gimmickry; we want to make the most efficient use of our resources and our personnel. I think we're lucky to have a coach of Ashley Giles' quality taking over and we want some of his ideas and energy to assist in taking our limited-overs sides up a notch or two. We believe he can do that."
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala