Pietersen's future in the spotlight

Hampshire Chronicle: Kevin Pietersen's England future will be determined shortly Kevin Pietersen's England future will be determined shortly

Kevin Pietersen gave a batting masterclass to Surrey team-mates on Tuesday, as his England and Wales Cricket Board employers debated whether to make his return to domestic duties a permanent one.

Pietersen's future has been subject to fevered debate since the end of the Ashes series, when reports suggested his relationship with team director Andy Flower had become untenably strained.

Flower's subsequent resignation after five years in the role appeared to create some leeway, but Pietersen's lavish on-field talent is matched only by his ability to attract controversy and his England career was earmarked as a special area of discussion during selection meetings this week.

Squads for the limited-overs tour of West Indies and the subsequent World Twenty20 in Bangladesh are due to be named on Thursday, when Pietersen's presence or absence should speak volumes about his long-term involvement.

Newly installed ECB managing director Paul Downton, one-day coach Ashley Giles and England captain Alastair Cook were understood to be determining whether to retain Pietersen prior to a final selection meeting on Wednesday.

Flower, who remains a selector for the time being, is likely to have given his own counsel already.

While those talks took place at Lord's, Pietersen himself was throwing himself into a mentoring role across London at the Kia Oval.

Pietersen's harshest critics would not deny his talent with the bat and instead tend to focus on perceptions of the 33-year-old as egocentric and with shortcomings as a team player.

With that in mind, his decision to visit Surrey to advise on batting against slow bowling seemed particularly well timed.

And if the ECB require a character witness to stand for Pietersen, they need look no further than former England captain and Surrey's current director of cricket, Alec Stewart.

Speaking to the Brown Caps' YouTube channel, Stewart praised Pietersen for his willingness to assist the county.

"It's something Kevin has wanted to do for the last four of five months, he first mentioned it at the back end of last season asking 'could I come in and talk to the players and show them a few tricks of the trade about playing slow bowling?," he said.

"After he got back from a long Ashes tour he called and said 'can I come in?'

"Today was the day and it was quite outstanding. He came in and spoke very, very well and made it clear what he believed was the way forward for playing against spin.

"We're just lucky to have Kevin. He's been very good with us. I enjoy listening to him, working with him and watching him play.

"He's been with us a couple of years and we enjoy having him here.

"When you have someone who is world-class - and he is world-class - and he is able to impart some knowledge back into the county game that can only be good, not just for Surrey but for English cricket."

Whether Pietersen is given the chance to continue benefiting English cricket from within the side should become apparent in the next 48 hours.

Although his Surrey deal runs concurrently to his ECB central contract, if Downton, Giles and Cook opt to move on from nine colourful years of KP, he is likely to set his sights on a full Indian Premier League season and other lucrative Twenty20 deals across the globe.

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