England leave Pietersen out in international wilderness
KEVIN Pietersen holds the key to whether he ever plays for England again, England coach Andy Flower said yesterday.
The South Africa-born batsman’s omission from England’s defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown, and the squad to face his native country in five one-day internationals and three Twenty20s this month and next, was confirmed yesterday morning.
Flower confirmed too that, until Pietersen speaks face to face with his England and Wales Cricket Board employers and management, no progress can be made for his possible re-integration into the team in any format.
England are understood to be significantly concerned about the exact content of text messages Pietersen sent to opposition players during the drawn Test against South Africa at Headingley. They reportedly included derogatory references to his Test captain Andrew Strauss – and when Pietersen did get round to apologising for them, as the ECB requested, he acknowledged they were “provocative”.
Flower yesterday made it clear the text messages are not the only issue in a “very sad situation”. That situation also resulted in Pietersen being dropped for the Lord’s Test – lost on Monday by 51 runs, as England went down 2-0 in the Investec series to South Africa and also conceded their world number one status to those opponents.
Pietersen’s contract wrangles with the ECB – specifically over his initial wish, since retracted, to play a full Indian Premier League season next year at a time when England have Test match obligations – have been ongoing all summer, and brought his retirement from all international limited-overs cricket three months ago.
That position has also been revised, but many fear that, at the age of just 32, Pietersen may
effectively have called time on his England career.
It was no surprise yesterday morning that he was left out of both England’s final 15 to defend their Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next month, and the 14 names to take on South Africa before then.
The squads were also notable for Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad’s absence from the forthcoming ODIs – starting in Cardiff on Friday – to give him a short rest before a packed schedule ahead. Moments after they were announced, Flower voiced his regret that Pietersen had effectively made his position in the England team untenable. “It’s a very sad situation for everyone involved,” he said.
“He played superbly at the last Twenty20 World Cup, but the circumstances that exist at the moment mean he can’t be selected for us. There are still unresolved issues, and we will be addressing those issues when we have time to do so.”
England’s diary is packed, and Pietersen should be busy playing for Surrey for the remainder of the season. But it is understood there is a will on the part of the ECB to arrange a face-to-face meeting, and it is thought Strauss and Pietersen may be considering doing so next weekend.
Flower added, however: “Let me be clear – this is not just an issue between the captain and Kevin. There are deeper issues, certainly of trust and mutual respect that need to be addressed.
“There are unresolved issues that have reared their heads in recent weeks, and they have to be resolved before there is any way forward. You resolve these issues face-to-face with people, not through PR agencies.
“If this matter is going to get resolved, that is how it’s going to have to be. Andrew Strauss and I have worked very closely and very well together over the years, and we will continue to do so over this issue.”
A drained Strauss was equivocal on Monday night, at the end of a tiring week before and during his 100th Test at Lord’s, about his future plans as captain – a role he is set to resume in a four-match series in India in November. Flower yesterday gave him an unqualified endorsement, and mandate to continue.
“He’s a superb leader,” said Flower. “He can certainly take this side on. He deserves a little break and he’s taking it now. He’ll come back feeling
refreshed, I’m sure.”
Strauss’ form has faltered,
periodically, in recent times – and in a series in which Matt Prior emerged as England’s
unlikely top runscorer, from
No 7, the captain’s sequence of innings without a half-century extended to eight.
“He would have wanted to have scored more runs in this series, and that might have put us in a better positions to win matches,” said Flower.
“But that goes the same for all seven of our batsmen. He’ll come back. I’m sure he’s got his thoughts very clear.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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