Kevin Pietersen: ECB chief leaves door open for England return

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen has not played any competitive cricket longer than Twenty20 for 14 months

Incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves has refused to rule out a return for Kevin Pietersen and says England must be more aggressive in one-day cricket.

He told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek that selectors and coaches would make any final decision on Pietersen.

"The first thing he's got to do if he wants to get back is play county cricket for somebody," said Graves.

Pietersen, 34, was sacked by England in 2014 and later released by Surrey.external-link

The South Africa-born batsman later responded to Graves's comments, saying he was "pleasantly surprised" and now needed to "go away and make a few decisions".

Pietersen has not played a competitive game in a longer format than Twenty20 since the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney in January 2014 - his final game for England.

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Since then, he has appeared in domestic T20 cricket for Delhi Daredevils, Surrey, St Lucia Zouks and Melbourne Stars.

He left Surrey last autumn and is currently without a county contract.

ECB managing director Paul Downton appeared to end speculation over a possible Pietersen return as recently as December, saying "more bridges have been burnt"external-link after Pietersen released an inflammatory autobiography in October, critical of many key ECB figures.

National selector James Whitaker said at the time there was "no way Kevin Pietersen will ever get back into an England team".

However, Graves - who takes up his new ECB post in May for a five-year term, replacing Giles Clarke - said he would not be involved in any final decision regarding Pietersen.

"It's down to the selectors, down to the coaches, of what they see, what is best for English cricket," he said. "They will make the decisions and I will support them when it comes to that decision."

Graves later told the Daily Telegraphexternal-link that the selectors "can't ignore" Pietersen if he "scores a lot of runs" for a county side.

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"Forget personalities," said Graves. "Selectors pick the best players in form, taking wickets and scoring runs. That is their job."

Pietersen then responded, saying: "Do I want to play for England again? Yes, of course I do. My time with England was cut short and I have always said I want to play again.

"But I need to speak to Colin, speak to the people who have helped me make decisions in the past and then I will see what I can do."

He told Sky Sports: "I'm sure that if it is genuine, which I'm sure it is seeing as it's pretty public, then - goodness - I'd love to be given that opportunity again.

"This is not about money. This is about me playing cricket for England, doing something I love."

Graves, 67, speaking after England were beaten for the third time at the World Cup in Sunday's nine-wicket defeat by Sri Lanka, said there needs to be a discussion about England's strategy.

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The Yorkshire chairman has already appointed a new five-strong executive team at Lord's and plans to produce a strategy document to present to the counties later this year.

"If you look at the World Cup this year, it's very aggressive early on," he told Sportsweek. "Are our players as aggressive as the others? They don't appear to be. If that's the case why not? We need to talk about those things."

"In ODIs we have underperformed. In Tests we are on the up, we have some fantastic young players coming through and have got to have some faith in them.

"We have to have a strategy and in one-day internationals we have to improve."

Graves told BBC Sport last week that he wants to follow Australia and India's lead in Twenty20 and to "decongest" the county calendar with a similar 'English Premier League' format.