Pietersen threatens England exit
Kevin Pietersen could have played his last game for England after conceding that there were deep, perhaps irrepairable, divisions with the ECB and some other members of the England dressing room.
Pietersen, who has been unsettled for some time by the demands of the England schedule, refused to confirm that the final Test of the series against South Africa at Lord's would not be his last and expressed his anger that private conversations between him and officials at the ECB had been leaked to the media.
His comments are sure to be poorly received by those at Lord's and by his England colleagues. With a vital Test looming it is far from impossible that Pietersen could be disciplined or even dropped in an attempt to retain a semblance of team spirit within the England camp.
"I can't give any assurances that the next Test won't be my last," Pietersen said. "I'd like to carry on but there are obstacles that need to be worked out. There are other points I'm trying to sort out in the dressing room.
"It would be a huge shame. I love playing Test cricket for England, but we'll see. For me, the saddest part about all this is that the spectators just love watching me play and I love playing for England."
Pietersen confirmed that some of his issues concerned a desire to play more IPL cricket, a wish to spend more time with his family and his enthusiasm to be included in England's World T20 squad. But he also insisted that there were "a lot of other issues that are more important that are being sorted".
"It's absolutely 100% not about money," he said. "This is not a money issue. The politics is what I have to deal with personally. It's tough being me playing for England.
"There's always speculation. There's speculation every single day. You guys speculate about my life all day every day. I'm going to make some decisions that will make me very happy."
Pietersen's current cause for concern is the leaking of information he regarded as private. Admitting that it revived memories of his sacking as England captain at the end of 2008, when Pietersen believes that his private concerns about the then England coach, Peter Moores, were also leaked to the media, he seemed to suggest that public opinion was being manipulated against him.
"It was blamed on me that before this Test series I was grabbing the headlines," he said. "Did I leak anything to the media about the meetings I was having with the ECB? I never spoke to the media for one single second and it was me grabbing the headlines and journalists talking about me grabbing the headlines. I never spoke a single word to a single journalist about anything that happened behind closed doors that I thought were closed doors. So you guys are always going to speculate and make me out to be the bad guy. No problem."
The catalyst for the latest controversy in a career that has seen more than most - including his dismissal as England captain and his departures from Nottinghamshire and Hampshire - is the prospect of a new round of annual central contracts in September. Pietersen, who effectively retired from international limited-overs cricket in May after expressing a reluctance to make himself available for all ODIs, has also requested that he is allowed to miss the Test series in New Zealand in March in order to play a whole season of IPL.
While he insisted that, in a perfect world, he would like to continue to play for England in all forms of game, his desire to pick and choose his series is most unlikely to be tolerated by the ECB. The ECB, citing the importance of treating all players equally and the dangers of setting a precedent, demands that players are available for all matches if they are to be considered for any.
Andrew Strauss, the England captain, was reluctant to be drawn on Pietersen's words. He did, however, underline the fact that the needs of the team would remain more important than the needs of the individual and that it was vital England were not distracted ahead of a Test that will confirm which is the No. 1 ranked Test side.
"One thing I will say, and it is important to stress this, is that the Team unity that we have had over the last three years has been outstanding," Strauss said. "It is something we all pride ourselves on, always have done and will continue to do so going forward.
"I hope the Kevin issue isn't going to be a distraction. The truth is we want as few distractions as possible in making sure we win this third Test match. I'm not here to talk about Kevin Pietersen. It is not something I want to talk about at this stage."