London – Kevin Pietersen's controversial England exit could yet prove a boon for Surrey, according to the county's new coach, who has known the star batsman since he was a schoolboy in South Africa.
The 33-year-old may be England's leading all-time run-scorer across all international format but that didn't stop officials announcing his career for his adopted country was over following the team's 5-0 Ashes drubbing in Australia.
Apart from statements stressing the need for team rebuilding and loyalty to Test captain Alastair Cook, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have so far refused to specify why exactly they ditched Pietersen.
But new Surrey coach Graham Ford expects Pietersen to respond with runs for The Oval-based county.
“He's a good enough player to prove a point in any format,” Ford said Monday.
“He'll certainly entertain and it will be great for the fans to come down and have a look at him and see just how good he is,” Ford added.
“Unfortunately he's got to move on from international cricket.
“The news was surprising. I don't really know what went on, but I have known Kevin for a long time and I've always found him to be a very positive individual and I'm sure he's going to be extremely positive in our dressing room.”
Meanwhile Surrey and England fast bowler Chris Tremlett was at a loss to explain Pietersen's international exile.
“I don't know the ins and outs of what's happened,” said Tremlett. “I'm sure Kevin was just trying to be honest in his opinions.
“There have been things that have happened over the years and the ECB have come to the decision they want to move on and try new players.
“It's a great shame for the world of cricket. Kevin is one of the best players, not just in England, but around the world.”
Pietersen will return to Surrey once he has fulfilled his commitments in the Indian Premier League.
It was at The Oval where he scored his maiden Test century, an astonishingly brazen 158 against an Australia attack featuring all-time greats Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne that saw England to an Ashes-clinching draw in 2005.
Now Ford and Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart are looking to Pietersen, in conjunction with former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, to help steer a youthful side back to the First Division of the four-day County Championship.
“When they (the young players) do get an opportunity to bat with him it will be a masterclass and a great chance to learn,” Ford said.
Former England captain Stewart added: “Whenever he (Pietersen) has been here with Surrey he's been outstanding.
“He's performed well. The way he's conducted himself within the dressing room and the training ground has been a credit to him and he has set high examples for the rest of our team to follow.
“Kevin has big personal pride. He'll want to do well as an individual and help, ideally, Surrey do well.” – Sapa-AFP