Pietersen saga “irrelevant” to Root

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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England batsman Joe Root has dismissed speculation that Kevin Pietersen could make an astonishing return to the team as “completely irrelevant”.

New England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves suggested on Sunday morning that Pietersen could force his way back into the national set-up by making an impact in county cricket.

Pietersen, who was sacked last year by the ECB, admitted Graves’ comments were a “pleasant surprise”, but the governing body later attempted to clarify the situation with a spokesman saying “nothing has changed”.

The 34-year-old, England’s record run-scorer across all combined formats, was dramatically axed in the wake of the Ashes whitewash defeat, despite being the leading run-scorer for his country in the series.

ECB managing director Paul Downton has commented on numerous occasions on Pietersen’s apparent “disengagement” with his team-mates while England were losing the final Test by 281 runs.

Graves’ comments have opened the debate once more but it is not a topic Root, who was dropped for that match in Sydney, was keen to discuss.

“If I ever become the chairman of the ECB then I’ll be in a position to comment on that,” he told BBC Sport.

“It’s completely out of my hands. They are the decisions that need to be made at the top. I’m here to play cricket, not make them.

“We’re in the middle of the World Cup and stuff like that is completely irrelevant to us.”

Root, who became England’s youngest World Cup centurion in the nine-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka on Sunday, believes the focus on Pietersen is something of a distraction.

England suffered their third reverse of the tournament and another to either Bangladesh or Afghanistan in their two remaining group matches would end their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.

“All we can do is win these next two games and get into that quarter-final,” Root added.

“It would be great to be in that position at the end of the group stage.”

England’s continued struggles in the short-form of the game prompt many to call for Pietersen’s return, even after the fall-out of his controversial autobiography which made several claims about the culture of the England dressing room.

Yet Graves hinted at a way back.

He told BBC Radio 5’s Sportsweek: “The first thing he has to do if he wants to get back is start playing county cricket. The selectors and the coaches are not going to pick him if he’s not playing, it’s as simple as that. I’ll leave it at that.”

When Graves was pushed for an answer on whether he would approve a Pietersen return, he said: “At the end of the day it’s down to the selectors and coaches and what they feel is best for English cricket. They will make the decisions and I will support their decisions.”

Pietersen has commitments to play in the Indian Premier League and Caribbean Premier League, while he was de-registered by Surrey at the end of last season.

An ECB spokesman said: “Colin Graves is correct. Nothing has changed – only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected for England.”

Pietersen is currently without a county contract, but Graves has given the 34-year-old food for thought.

“I was pleasantly surprised this morning actually,” Pietersen said.

“The previous chap (former ECB chairman Giles Clarke) was clearly (saying) that I’d been banned from playing for England and that I would never play for England again, which for me was incredibly sad because I do feel my England career was cut short and taken away from me.

“It’s come as a pleasant surprise but it’s one that I’ll obviously need to have a think through.”

Pietersen added, on Sky Sports 2: “I’ll definitely want to speak to the ECB. Let’s be clear: I’d love to play for England again.

“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.

“I’ll need to go away and make a few decisions. I’ll need to speak to a few people. I’ll need to go away now and see where my future lies. But it is really, really encouraging.”

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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