CRICKET: Joe Root distances himself from talk of an England return for Kevin Pietersen

England's Joe Root, right, celebrates with his teammate James Taylor after reaching his century against Sri Lanka
England's Joe Root, right, celebrates with his teammate James Taylor after reaching his century against Sri Lanka
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Sheffield batsman Joe Root ignored speculation linking Kevin Pietersen with a return to the England set-up when he faced the media in Australia earlier today.

Colin Graves, the new England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, hinted on Sunday morning that Pietersen could force his way back into the national set-up by making an impact in county cricket.

Kevin Pietersen.

Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen, who was sacked last year by the ECB, admitted Graves’ comments were a ‘pleasant surprise’, but the governing body later attempted to clarify the situation with a spokesman saying ‘nothing has changed’.

The 34-year-old, England’s record run-scorer across all combined formats, was dramatically axed in the wake of the Ashes whitewash defeat, despite being the leading run-scorer for his country in the series.

And Root, who scored a brilliant century for England in their World Cup defeat to Sri Lanka at the weekend, was in no mood to comment on the speculation.

“If I ever become the chairman of the ECB then I’ll be in a position to comment on that,” Root said.

“It’s completely out of my hands. They are the decisions that need to be made at the top. I’m here to play cricket, not make them [decisions].

“We’re in the middle of the World Cup and stuff like that is completely irrelevant to us.”

Root hit 121 as England posted 309-6 against Sri Lanka - but they lost by nine wickets, a defeat with prompted questions over Pietersen’s continued exile.

And Graves, formerly of Yorkshire, hinted that there may be a way back for the South African when he told BBC Radio 5’s Sportsweek: “The first thing he has to do if he wants to get back is start playing county cricket. The selectors and the coaches are not going to pick him if he’s not playing, it’s as simple as that. I’ll leave it at that.”

When Graves was pushed for an answer on whether he would approve a Pietersen return, he said: “At the end of the day it’s down to the selectors and coaches and what they feel is best for English cricket. They will make the decisions and I will support their decisions.”

Pietersen responded by saying: “I was pleasantly surprised. The previous chap [former ECB chairman Giles Clarke] was clearly saying that I’d been banned from playing for England and that I would never play for England again, which for me was incredibly sad because I do feel my England career was cut short and taken away from me.

“It’s come as a pleasant surprise but it’s one that I’ll obviously need to have a think through. I’ll definitely want to speak to the ECB. Let’s be clear: I’d love to play for England again.

“I’m sure that if it is genuine, which I’m sure it is seeing as it’s pretty public, then - goodness - I’d love to be given that opportunity again. It’s really encouraging.”

Pietersen, however, has commitments to play in the Indian Premier League and Caribbean Premier League, while he was de-registered by Surrey at the end of last season.

And an ECB spokesman said: ‘Colin Graves is correct. Nothing has changed - only players who are playing consistent high-quality county cricket and who are seen as a positive influence will be selected for England.’