Pietersen walks as Strauss steps up
Kevin Pietersen has stepped down as England captain with immediate effect and Peter Moores has been sacked as coach after a tumultuous day for English cricket. Andrew Strauss has been named captain for the tour of West Indies later this month and the ECB will begin an immediate search for a new coach.
However, Pietersen denied the reports which claimed he had resigned early on Wednesday morning and it was only after discussions with the ECB during the day that he felt his hand had been forced. "I wish to make it very clear that I did not resign as captain of the England cricket team this morning," he said in a statement. "However, in light of recent communications with the ECB, and the unfortunate media stories and speculation that have subsequently appeared, I now consider that it would be extremely difficult for me to continue in my current position with the England cricket team."
Hugh Morris, the managing director of England Cricket, read a statement at a hastily arranged press conference at The Oval. "It's been a complicated and difficult day. The ECB late this afternoon have accepted with regret the resignation of Kevin Pietersen as England captain.
"Kevin recognised that in the present situation it was impossible to restore the dressing room unity, which is vital, if England are to win the forthcoming tour to the Caribbean, the ICC global events or regain the Ashes in the Ashes Test series.
"Kevin Pietersen is highly valued as a senior and experienced player and we are delighted that he has indicated he wishes to continue to represent England in all their forthcoming international fixtures, starting in the Caribbean later this month."
The ECB were left in complete turmoil on a day of rumours, denials and high drama, following the emergency board meeting that took place on Tuesday evening to discuss the rift in the leadership of the team.
In a brief statement on Wednesday afternoon, the ECB had insisted they had "no knowledge" of the departure of either Pietersen or Moores, although they admitted that Pietersen had not been prepared to tour West Indies under the current management structure.
Pietersen, perhaps misjudging the mood of his employers, did not depart from his holiday in South Africa until Wednesday afternoon, by which time the 12-man board had already met, by teleconference, on Tuesday night. At that meeting, it was decided that the captain would have to pay the price for his attitude. It was felt that to accede to his demands would set a dangerous precedent for future disputes, one in which the whims of individuals would take precedence over structures.
In response, it initially appeared that Pietersen had taken his future into his own hands, and handed back the role he took on from Michael Vaughan barely five months ago. At 9am GMT, Sky News reported his resignation, giving as his reasoning the fact that the ECB did not act quickly enough in responding to his demands over Moores' future. Speaking briefly on the phone, Pietersen told the programme: "I am not in a fit state to talk."
Strauss, who captained England in 2006 when Vaughan was out of the team with injury, was the hot favourite to lead them on the tour of West Indies, which begins in exactly a fortnight's time. His reappointment, two-and-a-half years after he was overlooked for the Ashes tour in favour of Andrew Flintoff, represents a remarkable turnaround for a player who, this time last year, was dropped from the Test side following a prolonged run of poor form.
"Andrew Strauss has agreed to lead the team to the Caribbean," Morris said. "He led the England team with distinction in 2006 when Michael Vaughan was injured."
Meanwhile, Moores' departure comes as less of a surprise. His position became untenable following the revelations of the rift, and there had been little evidence of progress under his tenure and his credibility had been damaged beyond repair.
"With regard to Peter Moores, the board determined that he should relinquish his role as England team director," Morris added. "I have the greatest respect for the dignity which Peter Moores has shown in recent days when he has found himself under extreme pressure. The ECB wish him well in his future roles."
Cricinfo understands that Andy Flower, Moores' assistant coach, was offered the interim role for the West Indies tour, although Morris said an announcement on the coaching set-up would be made in the coming days.
Speaking to the News of the World earlier in the week, Pietersen said: "This situation is not healthy, we have to make sure it is settled as soon as possible and certainly before we fly off to the West Indies. Everybody has to have the same aims and pull in the same direction for the good of the England team."
Research conducted by Morris, however, suggested that Pietersen did not have the steadfast support of his team-mates or the back-room staff. The majority of the England support staff are understood to be supportive of Moores while most of the players are underwhelmed by Pietersen's dramatic intervention, as Steve Harmison demonstrated with his ambivalent comments on Tuesday.
There was also some sympathy towards Moores who, it is understood, was given the authority to select the England captain when Paul Collingwood and Vaughan resigned, and there are those within the set-up who feel that Pietersen had betrayed the coach's trust.
Attitudes towards Pietersen appeared to have hardened at board level. While few are completely convinced by Moores, they did not like the manner in which the captain has attempted to dictate events. As one board member told Cricinfo: "People who want to keep their jobs don't issue ultimatums."
The news brings to an end a tumultuous five-month reign. When Pietersen took on the role in August 2008 following Vaughan's resignation, he immediately declared that he intended to do the job "his way". With a maiden Test triumph over South Africa, followed by a 4-0 victory in the ODIs, his way was the high way during a heady honeymoon period.
But then came England's disastrous showing in Allen Stanford's 20/20 for 20 showdown in Antigua, in which England lost the chance to win US$1 million per man for a single evening's work when they were bowled out by the Stanford Superstars for 99. Pietersen blamed the team's performance on off-field "nonsense", including floodlight issues and a high-profile faux pas involving the player's wives, but there were no such ex cuses when England were subsequently thrashed 5-0 in their one-day series against India.
That tour was foreshortened after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November, and though Pietersen earned huge credit for his role in persuading the team to rejoin the tour for the two-match Test series, and for his remarkable century at Mohali, his tactical nous came under scrutiny during their 1-0 defeat, especially after the team failed to defend 387 in the first match at Chennai.
But all throughout his tenure, rumours of his dissatisfaction with Moores' methods were never far from the surface. Pietersen did not accept the job until he had had "clear the air" talks with Moores in the aftermath of Vaughan's resignation, and he later voiced his disapproval of Moores' dogmatic training methods that sapped the team's energy on their tour of New Zealand in March. Matters are believed to have come to a head in the lead-up to the Mohali Test, where the relationship between Pietersen and Moores reached the point of no return.
Although Kent's coach, Graham Ford, had been touted as Moores' probable successor, his candidature had been raised with a view to finding a man who could work alongside Pietersen. Ashley Giles is another option, although Warwickshire have warned they may not necessarily keep his job as the county's director of cricket open, should he be asked to fulfil a role as "stop-gap" coach in the Caribbean.