LONDON: Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen is to make a shock return to county cricket with Surrey after opting to play for the London-based side in Natwest T20 Blast rather than the Caribbean Premier League.
Pietersen, 36, last played for Surrey -- his third English county -- in 2015. "I'm absolutely over the moon to be joining Surrey again," said Pietersen, who had been due to play in the CPL for St Lucia, on Tuesday, in a club statement. "I've missed playing here at home and it's going to be a special feeling walking out at The Oval again.
"We've got some seriously talented guys in our team and I'm very confident we can achieve something really special this season. I've had some great times at this club and ground over the years; it's a special place with top people, and I'm looking forward to once again being part of it.”
In a separate video, filmed at Wentworth Golf Club, Pietersen -- who also withdrew from this year's lucrative Indian Premier League because he felt he needed a break after a busy, globe-trotting schedule -- said: "One of the great things is I'll be at home all summer. I've had an incredibly bad winter for travel and one of the reasons for doing it was to stay at home all summer. I'll spend a lot of time on the cricket fields of England, and on the golf courses of England too."
For all the reported discontent he caused within the England set-up, Pietersen has always been well-regarded at The Oval and Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart said: "Re-signing KP is a massive boost to the club and the NatWest T20 Blast competition. To have a player of his undoubted calibre available to us will add strength and experience to our squad and I'm sure all our fans will enjoy seeing him back playing in England again.
"His work ethic and appetite for success are infectious and our squad have always enjoyed having him around the dressing room and performing out in the middle," Stewart, like Pietersen a former England captain, added.
Pietersen is now due to make his first appearance of the 2017 English season against Essex on July 19 and is due to be available for the rest of the revamped tournament.
One of the most talented batsmen of his generation, South Africa-born Pietersen scored over 8,000 runs in 104 Tests for England at an average of nearly 48 including 23 hundreds.
He also helped England win the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean -- still their only major international limited overs trophy.
Yet his often strained and bitter relationship with the officialdom finally reached breaking point after England suffered a 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia in 2013/14 and he was never selected for international duty again, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing a need to rebuild "team ethic and philosophy" as a reason for his exile.
In 2015, ECB chairman Colin Graves at a possible return to England duty if Pietersen scored sufficient runs in county cricket.
But almost as soon as he had made a triple century for Surrey against Leicestershire, ECB cricket director Andrew Strauss -- who had both captained and played under Pietersen for England -- made it clear an international recall was out of the question.
His hopes of an England comeback dashed, Pietersen opted out of the 2016 county season and has since become a T'gun for hire', appearing in various T20 leagues in India, West Indies, Australia and South Africa.
Pietersen was most recently involved in the Pakistan Super League, largely staged in the United Arab Emirates, but withdrew from the Quetta Gladiators side that lost last weekend's final because of security fears concerning the match being staged in Lahore.