London: The England team on Thursday embarked on their gruelling Test tour of India with captain Alastair Cook insisting that Kevin Pietersen's text message scandal was over and he was delighted to have the controversial batsman in the squad for the series.
Cook, who was a driving force behind the reconciliation process that ended last week with Pietersen being added to the India-bound squad, said he wanted his best players to be with him for the four-match and eight-week Test series starting on November 15. "For me as captain, this is the best possible outcome because we have a world-class player back in our team. It's been a difficult two months for Kevin but he's contrite and he's determined to get back to what he does best, scoring runs for England. As a captain, that's all I want.
"I want him to come back in the side and score match-winning runs like he has in the past," said Cook at the Lord's as the team prepared to leave for Dubai. The team will train at the ICC Global Cricket Academy for two days until October 28 before flying next day to Mumbai where they will play their first tour match against India 'A' side.
Cook, who is on his maiden tour as Test captain, acknowledged the importance of cohesion and togetherness in the team over the course of the next 18 months, which includes this India tour and two Ashes series. "The meetings before the tour have been really helpful and key to this process. We're always going to have to work with every member of the side and different issues crop up, but we know team spirit is important and every member of the squad and management will have to protect that," he said.
"During the meetings we have had with him, these issues have been discussed. We are very confident he can fit into the team, otherwise he would not have been added to the squad. Now [that] Kevin is back, we do have to draw a line under what's happened. Andy Flower and I have worked closely on this issue and I'm just delighted we have ended up where we are," said Cook.
Asked if it would not have been better had Pietersen been with England side rather than in South Africa playing for Delhi Daredevils in their Champions League Twenty20, Cook said, "In an ideal world, it would, but we knew about the Champions League before we settled this. But it would have been the same for Joe Root had Yorkshire got through to the semi-finals. Kevin will come back with a clean slate."
Even with Pietersen in his side, the task facing Cook is enormous. England have managed just one Test victory in India since 1985 and the hosts will be well aware of their weaknesses, particularly with Duncan Fletcher in charge.
The first Test begins at Motera, Ahmedabad, on November 15 before the second, third and fourth in Mumbai (Nov 23-27), Kolkata (Dec 5-9) and Nagpur (Dec 13-17).