Finally, the speculation, innuendo, hypothesis, guess-work, and extrapolation of gossip is at an end.
England will go to India for their four-Test tour next month with a 16-man squad that does not include Kevin Pietersen, a sorry but almost inevitable outcome that most expected when he was not offered a central contract.
Instead, the national selector Geoff Miller and his co-selectors, with significant input from the new captain Alastair Cook, have named two uncapped batsmen. Called up to the squad are 21-year-old Yorkshire opener Joe Root, and Nick Compton, whose prolific form for Somerset this summer has impressed – he might have played Tests earlier had he not suffered a back injury during the season.
There are two spinners in the squad– Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, although they are unlikely to play together, with Samit Patel providing a more likely option as a second spinner should they need one. A competent batsman against spin, Patel's own left arm spin was used during England's second Test in Colombo in April.
Much was made of the apparent delay in naming the touring party, an interpretation of which was that talks with Pietersen aimed at resolving the various issues that led to him being omitted from the final Test of the summer were at an advanced stage. In reality, there was no such delay, with the announcement pushed back as far as was possible to allow time to assess the mindset of Ravi Bopara, whose personal problems appeared to affect his cricket so much. In the event, it was decided to include him in neither the tour party nor the Performance Squad which will shadow the England team in India and provide back-up if necessary.
Pietersen issued a statement through his management company, saying that he was "disappointed" at his omission having gone to "great lengths to reach reconciliation with ECB." He confirmed that he has had face-to-face meetings with Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, Andy Flower and the ECB chief executive, David Collier, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to England.
He had also met and apologised to Andrew Strauss for derogatory comments he made about him to members of the South African team. All along though, it has been clear that the issue of text messaging was a final straw and not the root cause of the breakdown in the relationship between Pietersen and the England set-up, which had been exacerbated by his fluctuating declarations of intent.
It is becoming clear that Miller, rather than choosing not to select Pietersen, was in fact not given that option, Pietersen's potential inclusion being blocked by Morris and, presumably, the ECB board. At the announcement of the squad Morris said that discussions with Pietersen had been ongoing but had not yet reached a sufficiently advanced stage.
"Both ECB and England team management have had meetings with Kevin Pietersen to address the issues which led to his omission from the final Investec Test match against South Africa," said Morris. "These discussions remain private and confidential and, as there are issues still to be resolved, Kevin has not been considered for selection for the India tour." The next chance to include Pietersen will come with the ODI tour of India in the new year, although by then he may well be playing in Australia, in the t20 Big Bash.
Root is a young batsman who has been monitored through the system up to the Lions, and has worked over the past two years with the Academy lead coach Graham Thorpe. Pertinently, this included time spent in Pune, refining techniques against spin. He has not had the most prolific summer but made an impressive century for the Lions against West Indies in May. India may always provide a tough challenge, but it is arguably one of the better places to be an opening batsman, something to which Cook will attest, as he began his own Test career with a debut century in Nagpur.
Compton revives one of the great names of England cricket and, unlike Root, has earned his selection from his performance in Division One. He has scored a healthy total of 1191 runs at an average of a fraction under 100. He was within one rain shower of scoring 1,000 runs before the end of May, a period of such inclement weather and fruity pitches that all others struggled. It was his diligence and capacity to assess conditions and find a way to score runs that most impressed, showing the sort of aptitude for Test cricket displayed by Jonathan Trott.
Whether he will make a final XI is open to doubt given that Eoin Morgan has also been reinstated to the Test squad. Morgan had been left out following a disastrous tour of the UAE, where he floundered against spin more than most.
England have never doubted his temperament however, realising that it was his technique that needed rectifying. Specifically an unusual crouch-and-bob style that had crept into his game, probably as a result of one day cricket as an aid to getting power and elevation to lofted shots. Certainly though, in the absence of Pietersen, there is no other batsman in the side with the potential to take the game away from the opposition.
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image: © JJ Hall