How Prior smoothed the way for Pietersen’s England comeback

KEY ROLE: Matt Prior

KEY ROLE: Matt Prior

First published in Sport

ENGLAND wicketkeeper Matt Prior has revealed how his own personal intervention helped bring Kevin Pietersen back into the fold before the 2-1 Test series victory over India at the end of last year.

Pietersen had been exiled from the England team after allegations about text messages he had sent to members of the South Africa squad and his international career looked over, but after he reached an agreement with the ECB to return the batsman went on to play a key role in England’s series victory.

Most of those talks were held with the ECB hierarchy, but Prior took matters into his own hands in the background.

The Sussex player told The Cricketer magazine he called Pietersen from a train to try to solve the problem.

‘‘I like everything out in the open,’’ Prior said. ‘‘Kev was obviously not happy with what was going on from an ECB point of view, which had nothing to do with us as players and was Kev’s own battle.

‘‘But when I heard he wasn’t happy in the team, then it suddenly became a players’ issue.

‘‘We all thought it was fine and rosy and obviously it wasn’t. It was a refreshing, honest conversation. I think he respected me for making the phone call.’’ Once Pietersen returned, there were questions as to whether he would prove a disruptive influence in the dressing room, but Prior believes he helped make the batsman feel wanted, easing his transition.

‘‘Kev said the things he needed to say to a few people, and they said the things that they needed to say to him,’’ Prior said. ‘‘Ultimately you’ve got to then grow up and... get on with it.’’ Alastair Cook is content to be leading a relatively freshfaced England side in India this month after accepting the need for rotation in international cricket.

The ECB have long pursued a policy of resting the players with the heaviest schedules and, with a Champions Trophy, back-to-back Ashes contests and a pair of series against New Zealand all coming up in the next year, that shows no signs of abating.

Indeed, their current oneday series in India, which continues with the second one-day international in Kochi today, takes place while a trio of senior men stay back in England.

Anchor man Jonathan Trott, opening bowler James Anderson and first-choice spinner Graeme Swann have all been excused the fivematch series, which England lead 1-0.

But Cook does not bemoan the lack of experience as he plots to record only a second series win in the country, instead accepting the need for workloads to be managed.

‘‘Careers are short but rest and rotation is going to be an important part of the side moving forward,’’ he said.

‘‘Luckily we are building a squad of players. We’ve got young lads here who have been in the international side for six to eight months and they are gaining experience, and hopefully showing if they get their chance they can take it. Rest and rotation is important and to me it is on a tour by tour, week by week basis.

‘‘As players and even coaches we are going to have to assess the situation, week by week, month by month. You can’t really plan too far ahead because things change due to injury or form or whatever.’’ Cook’s reference to resting coaches is a nod to the decision to appoint Ashley Giles as the side’s limited-overs coach, easing the strain of team director Andy Flower, who still leads the Test XI.

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