England have confirmed that they consider Kevin Pietersen an integral part of their future plans by naming him in their provisional 15-man list for this winter's Academy.
Pietersen, who was born in Pietermaritzburg, has blazed a trail with Nottinghamshire since he joined them in 2001 as a home-qualified player - by virtue of an English mother and a British passport. He has made little secret of the fact that he sees his international future with England. The only concern is that nobody seems sure when his residential qualification is complete. Pietersen and his county say it is in July 2004, the England & Wales Cricket Board counter that it is not until the start of the 2005 season. It is possible that there will be a compromise, and Pietersen will be considered eligible from the end of the 2004 season.
In naming the provisional squad, Rodney Marsh, the Academy director, has played a clever game. It encourages those on the periphery to try harder, while serving as a warning to those who are more certain of being included. They can take nothing for granted, as there are rivals breathing down their necks. And Marsh added that the door was not shut on anyone. "We want players who have not yet been picked to be upset and say 'Why on earth was I not in that squad?," he explained. "I am going to prove those doubters wrong.'"
The shortlist does not include any under-19s, as they involved in the Under-19 World Cup at the same time the Academy tour Malaysia and India.
The days of those in the Academy spending a winter in the Australian sunshine are now over. It is now based at Loughborough in the Midlands, at what Marsh described as "the best indoor facility in the world".
Provisional list of Academy players Kadeer Ali (Worcestershire), Simon Francis (Somerset), Alex Gidman (Gloucestershire), Will Jefferson (Essex), Shaftab Khalid (Worcestershire), Michael Lumb (Yorkshire), Tom Lungley (Derbyshire), Sajid Mahmood (Lancashire), Philip Mustard (Durham), Graham Napier (Essex), Kevin Pietersen (Nottinghamshire), Matthew Prior (Sussex), Bilal Shafayat (Nottinghamshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Graham Wagg (Warwickshire).