Cancelled flight delays Kevin's crucial meeting

Nick Hoult

London: The Kevin Pietersen saga took another bizarre twist on Monday when his "reintegration" process was delayed by 24 hours after his flight from Johannesburg to London was cancelled.

Pietersen's British Airways flight was put back 24 hours which resulted in him missing a scheduled meeting with one senior England player in London on Monday afternoon.

Pietersen has agreed to fly home for three days between matches for Delhi DareDevils in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament being held in South Africa. It is seen as an important step in repairing relations with his England colleagues and management. He is due to hold a series of face-to-face meetings with senior players, coaches and captain as England weigh up whether to add him to the squad for the tour to India.

Pietersen is understood to be viewing this week as a crucial step back to playing international cricket but has been told this is not a rubber-stamping process.

There have been positive comments from senior players over the past week but the outcome of this week's meetings will go a long way to determining whether he makes the India tour.

England will fly to Dubai a week on Thursday for a brief training camp before arriving in Mumbai four days later.

If the DareDevils reach the final stages of the Champions League, Pietersen will face a dilemma. He either stays loyal to his franchise and remains in South Africa to help them win a tournament with a prize of $2.5 million or joins up with England in Dubai.

David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, was forced into a climbdown on Monday after accusing the South African players of provoking Pietersen into the BlackBerry exchanges which led to his estrangement with England.

Collier had told the BBC that Pietersen was responding to messages from South African players when he made inappropriate comments about Andrew Strauss. Collier hinted that Pietersen fell for a trap. "I think that is sadly some of the ways of modern sport," he said.

It was that implication which angered Cricket South Africa and prompted the country's players' association to demand an apology, with Test captain Graeme Smith particularly upset. The players association did not rule out legal action if Collier failed to back down.

Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, is believed to have smoothed over relations with the South African board at an International Cricket Council meeting last week.

The apology was embarrassing for Collier, who earlier this year nearly left the ECB for a similar role at the International Cricket Council before losing out at the final stage to Dave Richardson. But Collier's position is not believed to be under threat, as his comments were out of character.

In the statement Collier and the ECB accepted the South African board and players have the "highest ethical standards of behaviour" but that they disagreed on the sequence of events ' in other words whether it was Pietersen who started the exchange.

Meanwhile, England pacer Stuart Broad is optimistic that a meeting between Pietersen and his international teammates will finally bring an end to the saga which has dogged the side recently."It's in the management's hands," he said.