ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook insists batsman Kevin Pietersen has been welcomed back by the whole team and indicated he would return to the side for the first Test of their tour of India.
Pietersen has been named in the 17-man squad set to depart for the subcontinent today, having apologised to England chiefs and coach Andy Flower for the text messaging row that threatened to end his international career.
Cook last night emphasised Pietersen had been “very contrite” about the messages he sent to South Africa players disparaging his former skipper Andrew Strauss during the summer Test series against the Proteas, which saw England lose their No1 status.
Preparing for a four-Test series that represents the sternest first examination of his captaincy credentials, Cook added Pietersen was likely to be thrust straight back into the side for the first match, which starts on 15 November.
“I’m sure he’s desperate to pull on the England shirt,” said the opener. “I think it’s been a difficult two months for us as an England side, but as captain the best possible outcome is that we have a world-class player back in the team. Kevin is very contrite and desperate to be back playing and scoring runs for England. As captain that’s all I want.”
Pietersen’s reintegration will begin with a three-day training camp in Dubai, before the squad arrives in Mumbai on Monday for a series of warm-up matches, with Cook convinced all his players are equally forgiving.
“Over the last couple of weeks these issues have been discussed,” he added. “I’m very confident or he wouldn’t be in the squad. The team are confident it all can work well. We know how important team spirit is. We have to draw a line in the sand. I’m delighted we have a world-class player back and that’s what I want as captain.”
England’s first warm-up, beginning on Tuesday against a strong India A side, looks likely to be short of the practice in facing spin they have this year appeared to sorely need after their opponents omitted specialist twirlers. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, who both featured for India at this month’s World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. Irfan Pathan and Vinay Kumar are among the big names in the India A squad.
Pietersen could miss the first warm-up, however, if his Champions League side, Delhi Darevils, win today’s semi-final against Highveld Lions, as he would be needed until Sunday’s final.
INDIA TOUR: KEY DATES
25 Oct: England squad flies to Dubai for three-day training camp
30 Oct-1 Nov: Tour match v India A, Mumbai
3-5 Nov: Tour match v Mumbai Select XI, Mumbai
8-11 Nov: Tour match v TBC, Mumbai
15-19 Nov: First Test, Ahmedabad
23-27 Nov: Second Test, Mumbai
5-9 Dec: Third Test, Kolkata
13-17 Dec: Fourth Test, Nagpur