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Kevin Pietersen is desperate for a break in play

The morning after what Kevin Pietersen described as the best one-day performance since he joined the squad three years ago seemed a strange time to be talking about a rest from international duty. But this thorniest of issues has been thrust back on to the agenda by Hugh Morris only a week into his new job as managing director of England cricket.

With the ECB targeting the Ashes series and global ICC one-day events as the priorities, Morris is open to the idea that leading players such as Pietersen should be excused from duty in less significant matches to ensure that they are fit and fresh for those that matter most.

Pietersen hinted at something similar in July when he explained away a run of poor scores against West Indies by citing the fatigue of a never-ending schedule. The fact that he was speaking at a sponsor’s event when he could have been getting the rest he needed made for an easy riposte, but without fully undermining the point.

He believes that the England hierarchy, centred on Morris and Peter Moores, the head coach, should determine the balance between playing, preparing and resting. “When I came out and said what I said in the summer, nobody backed me at all,” Pietersen said. “It would be nice to have decisions taken out of our hands.

“This is always a very, very tricky question. In terms of what I have always said in the past I would find it very hard to miss a tour because I love playing cricket. When I broke a rib in the winter and had to go home, I got really frustrated watching the one-day games on television because I wanted to be out in Australia playing.

“I want to play for another nine or ten years and the schedule we have got is tricky. I have not missed a Test match since I made my debut [in 2005]. I am not sure about missing whole tours, but I do believe there is scope for certain players to be looked after and certain players need to be looked after.”

Although the Schofield report, drawn up in the wake of the 5-0 Ashes defeat and focusing on managerial restructuring, recommended a reduction in the amount of cricket, the ECB seems to be to adding to it, with extra five-match one-day series against Australia and India on the schedule. Domestically, too, the season is expanding, with additional Twenty20 commitments for county players.

The twin goals of regaining the Ashes and winning an ICC event – which could be the World Cup, Champions Trophy or World Twenty20 – are lower than those set under the chairmanship of Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth in 2001, when England sought to reach No 1 in the ICC Test and one-day rankings.

However, targeting specific contests can affect selection for the rest. “Resting players is on the table, for sure,” Morris said. “I want to discuss it with the management team and the players. There is a serious amount of international cricket being played and we need to ensure that our best players are fit and raring to go.”

It would be a bold step for England to weaken their team, which is what this amounts to. And whatever they say in public, players are highly pragmatic. Matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are opportunities to boost averages and stepping down would allow others the chance to steal their positions.

There are parallels with the need to take a long-term view on the fitness of players such as Andrew Flintoff. This is easily said when Flintoff is fit and at the top of his game. But when a niggle occurs, the temptation to think short term and reach for the cortisone can be irresistible.

At least Morris, who watched England take an unassailable 3-1 series lead against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, sounds prepared to offer strong direction. “I will not tell the selectors who to pick, but I am keen to make sure that selection policy will be absolutely critical to the goals of regaining the Ashes and winning an ICC global event,” he said.

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