The England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, whose tenure officially started yesterday, has released a statement in which he strongly defends his integrity via the governing body’s website – his first public response to Pietersen’s claims that he has received “incredibly deceitful” treatment.
Pietersen learned on Monday from new ECB director Andrew Strauss, after making a triple-century for Surrey, that his attempt to force his way back into England contention via runs in county cricket had come to naught. The maverick batsman responded by claiming he had been “misled” in telephone conversations with Graves, which followed two March interviews suggesting Pietersen could possibly resume his international career following his sacking 15 months ago.
After the ECB’s annual general meeting at Lord’s yesterday, Graves said: “In the past few days my integrity has been called into question, something I can’t accept. Throughout my business career and my years at Yorkshire, integrity has been my watchword. It governs everything I do and is an important part of what I bring to the ECB.
“So it saddens me that what was a private conversation with Kevin in March has been used to do just that. Kevin felt he had a lot to offer and was interested in a dialogue with the ECB, sorting things out and working together. He would love to play for England again but he wanted to contribute, whether as a player or not.
“I didn’t make any promises. There were no guarantees that if he chose to exit his IPL [Indian Premier League] contract, play county cricket and score runs he would be selected for England – and I said he should make any decision on his future on that basis.”
Pietersen, England’s leading all-time runscorer across the formats, responded to his private discussions with Graves by negotiating a release from the majority of a lucrative IPL contract with Sunrisers Hyderabad in order to rejoin Surrey. The 34-year-old spoke of his “dream” to play for England again in this summer’s Ashes rematch – he was axed after the 2013/14 whitewash defeat down under.
Then he let his bat do some talking too, with a career-best 355 not out against Leicestershire at The Oval. That proved to be to no avail, as Pietersen discovered at a meeting in a London hotel with Strauss and ECB chief executive Tom Harrison.
Writing in his ECB blog, Graves related his understanding of pre-season conversations with Pietersen.
“Back then, when we talked on the phone, Kevin asked if I thought his England career had ended in the right manner following the last Ashes series in Australia,” he added. “I agreed that nobody particularly emerged with much credit from the whole episode, particularly given his achievements for England. I can see something has been misunderstood around the conversation and in the following debate – and perhaps how that happened.”
Subsequently, Graves agreed with his management team – including Strauss – that there still could be no way back for Pietersen this summer because of a lack of trust between him and his former employers. Graves added: “What I did stress was that when I took over as chairman I would back those people whose job it was to take the decisions on team selection. I stand by that.”