Sport Comment: Popcorn at the ready for return of cricket’s very own Butch Cassidy

Kevin Pietersen has not featured for England since the 2013/14 Ashes series Down Under
I KNOW, I know: it’s international week and Lithuania are in town but, seriously, I think even the staunchest Tottenham fan has had enough of Harry Kane.

Instead, keeping the international theme going, I give you the case of a 34-year-old, perhaps past his prime, who is hoping for a last hurrah with England. Those of you who have been paying attention will know it is Kevin Pietersen who is in my sights.

He was run out of the England team 13 months ago after the 5-0 Ashes debacle and he has been on the run ever since – a sort of cricketing Butch Cassidy – but instead of rocking up in Bolivia like the Western outlaw, the controversial Pietersen has sought sanctuary, refuge and even international salvation at The Oval.

BASH AND CRASH
On Wednesday, he signed a new contract with Surrey, the deal loaded towards County Championship cricket rather than the bash and crash of the limited overs game. It is a deliberate bid to show he might score runs again in the five-day Test arena.

“I would kick myself for a long time if I walked away now without having a go,” said Pietersen. “Even if this does not work out and I do not get back in the England team, I will at least end my career knowing I gave it another shot.”

Having a go is an interesting choice of words. Pietersen has been accused of having a go at too many others and too many things to be taken back into the fold. But he seems to have an ally in England and Wales Cricket Board chairman-elect Colin Graves who has said the player would be considered by – providing he played county cricket. Well, he is going to do that, even if Team England are united in turning their backs in Pietersen’s direction.

ECB managing director Paul Downton wrote him off as “disconnected” and “disengaged”; Test skipper Alastair Cook last week said a Pietersen return with England was “very unlikely”, while national selector James Whitaker said “he is not part of our plans”.

ENTERTAINING
So will he be “having a go” with England again? He certainly had a go at quite a few of his old Test colleagues in his autobiography last year, including skipper Cook.

So it seems unlikely, even if Surrey’s director of cricket, Alec Stewart, describes him as a “world-class player with “ambitions to play for England”.

What is perhaps most revealing is the reaction of a chief ally, his South African mentor, Clive Rice, who said: “For whatever reason he causes upsets in the side. He can’t go on causing upsets, he’s got to be there performing and let the management manage him properly.”

If that is what one of your best pals is saying about you, the chances of a Pietersen England Test comeback in time for the start of this summer’s home Ashes series in July looks doomed.

But keep an eye on KP. His remarkably optimistic quest might be a very entertaining one.