Pietersen, 34, has not played for England since the ECB effectively called time on his international career following the disastrous Ashes tour of 2013-14.
But with England toiling at the ICC World Cup 2015 and Pietersen having spoken of his eagerness to return to the team, Graves has suggested that a return to English county cricket could open the door for a dramatic comeback.
"The first thing he has to do if he wants to get back is start playing county cricket," Graves told BBC Radio 5 on Sunday.
"The selectors and the coaches are not going to pick him if he's not playing. It's as simple as that. I'll leave it at that."
Pietersen is currently without a county after leaving Surrey and although Graves is not an ECB selector, he believes a county return would help the outspoken South Africa-born batsman's cause.
Asked if he was in favour of Pietersen returning for England, Graves replied: "At the end of the day it's down to the selectors and coaches and what they feel is best for English cricket.
"They will make the decisions and I will support their decisions."
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