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16th-20th May: 1st Test, Lord's
19th May: 2nd ODI, Edinburgh
The retirement of Andrew Strauss announced in a press conference today will inevitably spark questions about the door opening for Kevin Pietersen's reintroduction to the international set-up; a door which had previously appeared closed for the significant future.
Though Strauss denied that the Pietersen saga had affected his decision to resign the captaincy, it inevitably hastened his departure as the resignation offered him a way out of the crisis. The speed of Pietersen's reintroduction to the England setup will reflect the role that the relationship between Strauss and Pietersen had to play in the KP saga.
The text messages about Strauss sent by Pietersen to the South African team brought the crisis to a head, but it would be short-sighted to see Strauss as the only roadblock to Pietersen's return to the England set-up.
Amongst the other issues to be resolved is Pietersen's relationship with other players; Stuart Broad for one was rumoured to have been involved in the controversy surrounding the KP parody Twitter account. Then there is also the somewhat troublesome relationship Pietersen and Graeme Swann have enjoyed over the years. Back in 2011 Swann stated in his book that the best thing to come from Pietersen’s short stint as captain was Andrew Strauss taking over.
Moreover, it does not seem that many of the other players are in a rush to welcome KP back to the dressing room; several of them including Tim Bresnan have spoken out and tweeted that the team is no weaker without him.
Alongside dressing room relationships there is also the issue of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The lure of a lucrative contract in the IPL which clashes with England's 2013 Test match series versus New Zealand is what sparked the original clash between KP and the ECB and no doubt did not go down well with other players in the dressing room.
In order to be welcomed back into the side KP will have to resolve not only his issues with teammates but also come to an amicable compromise with the ECB about his involvement in IPL cricket.
It was revealed today that England Cricket managing director Hugh Morris will have a meeting with Pietersen to discuss his future and resolve the issues. The timing of such a statement is controversial in itself. If Pietersen is to be re-introduced to the England setup the ECB must be careful that his reintroduction does not appear to be a result of Strauss's retirement, as accusations could then be cast that the ECB sacrificed their captain for their no.1 talent.
Sadly for the ECB this is a tightrope they must walk. It is beyond doubt that Kevin Pietersen has the ability to be the catalyst which could propel England back to the number one spot in all forms of cricket but they must make it clear that they have placed the team before the man, and while Pietersen's reintroduction may be hastened by the departure of Strauss it is not as a result of the captain's resignation.
The ECB must also strike a balance between the spirit of the dressing room and the inclusion of match-winning talent; if Pietersen continues to be a disruptive influence then the benefits of his ability may no longer outweigh the cost his behaviour has on the performance of the team as whole.
It seems inevitable that Pietersen will return to the England setup but it is also clear that his reintroduction will not mark the end of this saga which will continue to be a focus of the ECB for some time to come.
© Cricket World 2012
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