Controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen gets an early chance to re-establish himself for England after he was picked for the opening match of the Indian tour in Mumbai starting Tuesday.
Team coach Andy Flower said Pietersen will bat at number four in the three-day match against India ‘A’ at the Brabourne stadium, the first of three warm-up matches before the Test series.
“Kevin will play tomorrow and bat at four,” Flower told reporters a few hours after the tourists arrived in Mumbai for the four-match Test series that starts in Ahmedabad on November 15.
It will be Pietersen’s first outing for England since being dropped in August for sending text messages to touring South Africa players that contained criticism of then-skipper Andrew Strauss.
The 32-year-old, who also missed the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, was added as the 17th member of the touring squad after lengthy conciliatory meetings with England team bosses and players.
While the rest of the squad arrived from their training camp in Dubai on Monday, Pietersen flew in separately from South Africa where he turned out for Indian Premier League side Delhi Daredevils in the T20 Champions League.
England, who last won a Test series in India under David Gower in 1985 and lost their number one status to South Africa in August, will be boosted by Pietersen’s return.
Pietersen, the squad’s premier batsman with 7,076 runs in 88 Tests at an average of 49.48, smashed a brilliant 144 in England’s last Test on Indian soil in 2008 and knows the conditions well as an IPL player.
His return for England received enthusiastic support from new Test captain Alastair Cook, while Flower described the South African-born batsman as an “amazing cricketer”.
“I spoke to KP this morning and he is desperate to get going and we are desperate to have him back,” said Cook, who took over as captain when Strauss retired after the South African series.
“He is here to score runs and pass on the experience of Indian conditions to the younger players in the side.”
The series gives India an opportunity to make amends for the humiliating 4-0 whitewash in England last year.
England’s opponents in the tour opener will be captained by Suresh Raina. The team includes his main rival for the number six spot in the Test side, Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvraj, who has not played Test cricket since last November, was treated for a rare germ-cell cancer between his lungs in the United States earlier this year.
The 30-year-old played in the World Twenty20 and staked his claim for a Test recall by smashing a double-century on his return to first-class cricket earlier this month.
Raina said his India ‘A’ team was determined to give the tourists a hard time in the three-day game.
“I was there in England and I feel the pain of losing that series 4-0,” said Raina. “I want to give some of that pain back.”
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