LONDON: Kevin Pietersen took another step toward a possible return to the England team by signing for Surrey on Wednesday, giving the country's most controversial player two months in English county cricket to impress selectors before the Ashes series.
Pietersen said in a column in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph that he will be donating all of his wages to his charity, the KP24 Foundation, adding: "I will at least end my career knowing I gave it another shot."
The South Africa-born batsman is seeking a way back into the England set-up after being ditched following last year's Ashes whitewash in Australia so the team could build a new "ethos and philosophy" without its most divisive influence.
Pietersen was given encouragement by the incoming chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Colin Graves, who said last month that Pietersen could be recalled if he plays county cricket and scores lots of runs. Pietersen and Graves have also spoken over the telephone.
Pietersen has reacted by securing a release from his lucrative contract with Indian Premier League side Sunrisers Hyderabad and signing a season-long deal with Surrey, for whom he played Twenty20 cricket last year.
"A lot of people thought I would not be prepared to put in the hard yards and play county cricket but I will do anything to get that England cap back on my head," Pietersen said in the Telegraph.
"All I am looking for is a fair opportunity to play for England again. I just want a blank sheet of paper and to be judged on merit."
Pietersen will be available for the opening game of the county championship on April 19, and says he is planning to play for Surrey only in four-day county championship games, rather than in ODIs and Twenty20s.
"A Kevin Pietersen with ambitions to play for England and a real determination to score big runs for Surrey will be a huge asset to us," said Alec Stewart, the former England batsman who is Surrey's director of cricket. The five-Test Ashes series begins on July 8 with the first match in Cardiff.
Last week, England selector James Whitaker said Pietersen was "not part of our plans," and Test captain Alastair Cook said a recall would be "very unlikely" because Pietersen's explosive comments about teammates and coaches in his autobiography last year may have caused irreparable damage.
Pietersen said he never had any issues with Cook — he called him a "nice guy" and "one of England's greatest ever cricketers" — and that he was happy to play under him and coach Peter Moores, who Pietersen fell out with in Moores' first spell in charge from 2007-09.
Pietersen was the second-highest run-scorer in the recent Big Bash in Australia, averaging 41.86 runs for Melbourne Stars, and said he was "in the best shape I have been in for a very long time" following knee problems.
"I feel mentally very fresh and you could see that by the way I batted in the Big Bash. I was totally free and that is how I want to bat for England again," Pietersen said.
"I might not play well enough to get back in (to the England team) and injuries could strike. I have taken all those things into account but at the end of the day I want to give this a go because I am desperate to play for England again. I do not see any bad coming from it. There is so much more good."
Pietersen is a former England captain, and his adopted country's all-time top run-scorer in all formats. He has played 104 tests — scoring 23 centuries in his total of 8,181 runs at an average of 47.28 — as well as 136 ODIs, and 37 T20s.