London: English county Surrey on Wednesday confirmed the return of flamboyant batsman Kevin Pietersen, who is bidding to force his way back into the England team.
Pietersen was axed by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in February last year, but incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves has suggested a return to county cricket would enhance his chances of an England recall. He agreed a release from the majority of his contract with Indian Premier League side the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday and will therefore be available to play for Surrey from the start of the county season in April.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be back at Surrey," Pietersen, who was de-registered by Surrey at the end of last season, told the club's website. "It's a club very close to my heart and (director of cricket) Alec Stewart, (coach) Graham Ford and everyone at the club has been exceptionally supportive. "There is a fantastic group of lads here, and I hope we can deliver what the great Surrey fans want to see -- lots of runs and comprehensive victories."
Stewart added: "A Kevin Pietersen with ambitions to play for England and a real determination to score big runs for Surrey will be a huge asset to us." Pietersen has revealed that he will donate his wages to his own Kevin Pietersen Foundation, which he set up to help under-privileged children.
"I always said this was not about money, and I will be donating my full Surrey wage to my foundation," Pietersen wrote in his Daily Telegraph column, shortly after his return to Surrey was confirmed. Surrey begin the 2015 County Championship season with a match against Glamorgan in Cardiff that starts on April 19.
'Blank sheet of paper'
Pietersen, 34, has agreed to sit out the Sunrisers' entire league programme, but he could be recalled if they reach the IPL knockout phase, which runs from May 19-24. The South Africa-born batsman is England's all-time leading run-scorer in all formats and he reiterated his desire to end his international exile.
"Even if this does not work out and I do not get back in the England team, I will at least end my career knowing I gave it another shot," Pietersen added in his Telegraph column. "I would kick myself for a long time if I walked away now, without having a go. The public support since this all started has been incredible and helped make up my mind to pursue this chance to play for England again.
"All I am looking for is a fair opportunity to play for England again. I just want a blank sheet of paper, and to be judged on merit. "I will be meeting Mr Graves face to face. I think he is open to discussing drawing a line in the sand in terms of what's gone on." However, despite Graves's comments, other figures in the England hierarchy have played down the prospect of a comeback for the outspoken batsman.
National selector James Whitaker said last week that Pietersen was "not part of our plans", while captain Alastair Cook described the chances of his former team-mate making a comeback as "very unlikely". Pietersen was dropped after England's 2013-14 Ashes series whitewash in Australia, with ECB managing director Paul Downton citing his "disengagement" with his team-mates during the last Test in Sydney. He subsequently released an autobiography in which he alleged that a bullying culture had taken root in the England changing room.
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