Pietersen out of Champions Trophy
Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the Champions Trophy and could face a race to be fit in time for the Ashes as he continues his rehabilitation from a knee injury. The ECB said on Wednesday that it expected Pietersen to resume full training in mid-June, less than four weeks before the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge on July 10.
Pietersen missed the third Test of England's tour of New Zealand after suffering bruising to his right knee and it had already been announced that the batsman would not be considered for the return series, starting next month. Playing in the Champions Trophy was the next target but it has been deemed that he will not be ready for the tournament, which runs from June 6-23.
An ECB statement read: "Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the ICC Champions Trophy following a repeat MRI scan on his right knee earlier today. The scan has shown some improvement in the bruising to the bone that occurred in the build up to the Test Series against New Zealand in February. However Pietersen will not have recovered sufficiently in time for the NatWest one-day series against New Zealand beginning May 31 and the Champions Trophy which follows. Pietersen will now start a graduated rehabilitation program with a view to resuming full training by the middle of June."
The news is not altogether unexpected, with England taking a cautious approach to managing Pietersen's knee problem ahead of back-to-back Ashes series, and comes shortly after the announcement of Australia's touring squad. Pietersen has been wearing a brace to aid his recovery, although there is currently no suggestion that surgery will be required.
When he flew home from New Zealand, where he was injured in a warm-up match at Queenstown, a timeframe of eight weeks was given, forcing his withdrawal from the entire IPL. The two home Tests against New Zealand, beginning on May 16, would also have come too soon but his absence for the Champions Trophy is a blow to England's hopes of winning a global 50-over competition for the first time.
Should his recovery progress as the ECB hopes, Pietersen could play for Surrey in the Championship against Yorkshire starting on June 21. England then have a four-day game against Essex starting on June 30 to prepare for the Ashes although even that schedule would only leave him a maximum eight days of first-class cricket since the middle of March.
Pietersen returned to England's ODI team for the first time in almost a year against India in January after his temporary retirement from limited-overs internationals in 2012. England's rotation policy meant Jonathan Trott was rested for that series, with Joe Root making an immediate impression in the middle order and when Pietersen sat out the ODIs in New Zealand, Root improved his record to 326 runs at 81.50.
With Trott, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell all expected to bat at the top of the order, England will now be heavily reliant on Eoin Morgan to provide the sort of impetus that Pietersen is capable of in one-day cricket. The priority of retaining the Ashes, however, is clearly of greater concern.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo