Kevin Pietersen has responded to apparently conciliatory comments from the incoming ECB chairman, Colin Graves, by saying he wants to speak to the governing body about a potential England return. Graves suggested in a radio interview that if Pietersen was serious about appearing for England again, he should start playing county cricket.
"I was pleasantly surprised this morning, actually. The previous chat was clearly that I had been banned from playing for England and that I'd never play again, which for me was incredibly sad because I do feel that my England career was cut short and taken away from me," Pietersen told Sky Sports. "It's come as a pleasant surprise but one that I'll need to think through.
"It's only happened in the last three or four hours, I'm not going to hassle anybody on a Sunday, I'm certainly not going to hassle Colin on a Sunday. But I'll definitely want to speak to the ECB. Let's just be clear: I'd love to play for England again.
"If it is genuine, which I'm sure it is... Goodness, I would love to be given that opportunity again. I will need to go away and make some decisions, I need to speak to a few people... I'll have to go away now and see where my future lies but this is really, really encouraging."
Pressed on whether he would give up his lucrative IPL deal in order to sign with a county - he was released by Surrey at the end of last season - Pietersen said he wanted to be certain that there was a "genuine" possibility of being picked by England again. He was excluded in the wake of England's 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, after being judged by the ECB's senior hierarchy to be a disengaged and disruptive character.
"I can't say that I'm going to be giving away any contracts right here on a Sunday when I haven't spoken to anybody," Pietersen said.
"This is not about money, this is about playing cricket for England, doing something that I love... It's a decision which would purely be on the basis of 'Do I want to play cricket for England? Is this a genuine situation where I could, if I score runs for potentially Surrey, play for England again?' It's decisions like that I'm going to have to make this week."
The ECB later sought to clarify Graves' remarks saying the situation regarding Pietersen had not altered. "Colin Graves is correct. Nothing has changed - only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected for England," a spokesman said.
It remains unclear whether Graves' comments were the hint of willingness to let bygones be bygones or, much more likely, merely a typically bullish response to what he regarded as a tiresome question, intended to convey where his priorities lie. Pietersen tweeted the story before the phone interview on Sky's Verdict programme in which he wondered out loud if the situation had really changed.
"The first thing he has to do if he wants to get back is start playing county cricket," Graves told BBC Radio 5. "The selectors and the coaches are not going to pick him if he's not playing, it's as simple as that. I'll leave it at that."
Pushed for clarification, he added: "At the end of the day it's down to the selectors and coaches and what they feel is best for English cricket. They will make the decisions and I will support their decisions."
Graves has spoken generally of a clean slate in English cricket, which will encourage speculation whether Pietersen might yet make a remarkable comeback, but the odds would still seem to be against it happening.
With the MD of England cricket, Paul Downton, and chairman of selectors, James Whitaker, both repeatedly insisting that life has moved on (not for the better judging by England's World Cup results), the door for a Pietersen comeback remains only slightly ajar.
He followed up his omission by settling scores in one of the most vitriolic sport autobiographies ever written, criticising the dressing-room culture and several of his erstwhile team-mates - although he claimed on Sunday that he had no issues with Alastair Cook, the Test captain, or Peter Moores, England's head coach who was removed from the position in 2008 after falling out with Pietersen.
He has maintained his desire to play for England again but seemed to have rejected the county game in favour of a late career as a T20 specialist, with stints at the Big Bash, IPL and the Caribbean Premier League.
2.30pm GMT: This story was updated with Pietersen's response