KEVIN PIETERSEN was labelled a “million-pound asset” by England limited overs coach Ashley Giles after he gave the clearest indication yet the controversial batsman could still have an international future.
Pietersen has been selected in England’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Twenty20, which begins in Bangladesh in March along with Yorkshire quartet Joe Root, Tim Bresnan, Gary Ballance and Johnny Bairstow plus former White Rose batsman Michael Lumb.
While England must still trim that list in half early next month, meaning Pietersen could yet be overlooked, Giles revealed there had been no thought of omitting the right-hander from the provisional squad.
“No. There was no discussion about leaving Kevin out,” he said.
“He’s another million-pound asset at least, he might be worth a bit more than that. He’s a fantastic player and he’s shown that in T20 cricket.
“Kev has been a fantastic player for England for many years.”
Giles’s comments were the type of ringing endorsement that Pietersen has failed to attract from team director Andy Flower, or captain Alastair Cook, in the wake of the 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
Pietersen’s England future was thrown into doubt immediately after the fifth Test in Sydney, when reports emerged Flower was ready to jettison the 33-year-old as he plots a new era.
Flower dismissed suggestions he had issued a ‘him or me’ ultimatum to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as “totally inaccurate”, although he did not use his statement to reassure Pietersen over his place.
Cook likewise refused to speak on the matter last week, confirming only that any major decision-making would occur after he had returned from England to sit in an Ashes review.
Cook is due to leave Australia after the ODI series finishes on January 26, with Flower having already returned home.
New ECB managing director Paul Downton, who does not officially start his role until February 1, is in Australia with the team.
Another potential key date is the final confirmation of England’s Twenty20 squad, when it will be known if Pietersen makes the final cut.
Giles indicated that the 15-man list would be confirmed the day after England return from their Australia tour. The final match is the third Twenty20 in Sydney on February 2.
Pietersen reaffirmed his “strong desire” to remain an England player amid the initial Ashes fall-out, although he has been unable to press his claims for the World Twenty20 after sitting out a scheduled rest for the limited overs leg of Australia.
In his absence, England notched their first win in two months on tour, thrashing a Prime Minister’s XI by 172 runs in Canberra, but success against Australia remains on the to-do list after losing the first ODI in Melbourne by six wickets.
Giles’s side will aim to level the series in Brisbane tomorrow night.
Steven Finn will not be there to assist after being released by Giles because he was “not selectable” due to technical problems with his bowling action.
Finn has not played a single competitive match since arriving Down Under in late October and was the only one of the initial 17-man Ashes squad not to appear in the Test series.
The ECB released a statement revealing the 24-year-old would leave the tour to “continue working on technical aspects of his game”.
Finn’s early departure comes with four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s still to be played.
“With Steven we have made a decision he is going to go home,” said Giles shortly after the team, and Finn, arrived in Brisbane.
“We feel it is the best thing for him. He’s obviously not been bowling that well and not bowling well enough to be selected.
“We felt right now the best place for him to be is out of a performance environment. Steven is not selectable at the moment.”
Finn’s lack of confidence was apparent during a training session last week, when he spent the majority of his time bowling into an empty net at the MCG and speaking to Giles and captain Cook.
England’s provisional 30-man World Twenty20 squad: Broad (capt), Moeen Ali, Bairstow, Ballance, Bopara, Borthwick, Bresnan, Briggs, Buttler (wkt), Carberry, Dernbach, Finn, Gurney, Hales, Jordan, Kieswetter (wkt), Lumb, Morgan, Onions, Parry, Samit Patel, Pietersen, Rankin, Root, Stokes, Taylor, Tredwell, Vince, Woakes, Wright.