Pietersen World Twenty20 hopes recede
Kevin Pietersen's chances of being reconciled to the England set-up and winning a place in their World Twenty20 squad appear to have receded after the ECB and Andrew Strauss confirmed that further discussions between the parties were needed, despite Pietersen's apology for sending "provocative" texts.
Strauss, England's captain and the subject of the allegedly derogatory texts sent by Pietersen to members of the South Africa squad, said "underlying issues on trust and respect" had to be addressed but that this was unlikely to take place until after the third Test against South Africa, for which Pietersen has been dropped. The deadline for England to submit their World T20 squad is Saturday, the third day of the Test, suggesting that Pietersen will not be recalled, as he desires.
After the ECB confirmed the receipt of Pietersen's apology, Strauss said that there were "broader issues" to be dealt with. He called the selectors' decision to leave Pietersen out "brave and very correct", saying that the batsman's presence at Lord's would have been "untenable".
"The truth is a lot has happened over the last seven days," Strauss said. "The England team has been in the news for the wrong reasons. We all want to move forward but there are some underlying issues on trust and respect that don't get dealt with over night and it's going to take quite a long time to overcome those. My personal point of view is that I prefer those issues to be dealt with in private, away from the media, without the help of PR companies and press releases and that is certainly the way I'll be approaching it going forward.
"The apology is a first step, definitely, but there is a lot more to investigate with all of this and in truth if there is a way forward those issues regarding trust and mutual respect have to be dealt with and it is not just a one-way process and we need to deal with those behind closed doors.
"It's been hanging over us since Kevin's press conference after the Headingley Test match. There was a certain amount of relief on Monday that a decision had been made and we can focus on Test. The challenge this week has been to not let it affect us on the field."
Discussions have been ongoing between the ECB and Pietersen's representatives after the batsman was omitted from the England squad for the third Test against South Africa. Pietersen was dropped for refusing to apologise for the texts, which he has now admitted sending, despite the ECB demanding it as a condition of his selection for the third Test.
In a statement, England managing director, Hugh Morris, said: "We are in receipt of Kevin's apology, but further discussions need to take place to establish whether it is possible to regain the trust and mutual respect required to ensure all parties are able to focus on playing cricket and to maintain the unity of purpose that has served us so well in recent years. Critically, those discussions should take place behind closed doors, rather than in the media spotlight.
"A successful conclusion to this process is in everyone's best interests and is required for Kevin Pietersen's potential selection in all forms of the game to be considered. At the moment we have an important Investec Test match to focus on and therefore ECB will make no further comment until such time as is appropriate."
South Africa have publicly described the text interactions as "banter", a word Pietersen echoed in his apology, whilst acknowledging the "upset and tension" the situation had caused.
Pietersen said: "I did send what you might call provocative texts to my close friends in the South Africa team. The texts were meant as banter between close friends. I need to rein myself in sometimes. I apologise to Straussy and the team for the inappropriate remarks at the press conference and for the texts. I truly didn't mean to cause upset or tension particularly with important games at stake."
Strauss has seen the build-up to his 100th Test overshadowed by the Pietersen imbroglio but was diplomatic about having to become involved. Pietersen has been in negotiations over his international workload with the ECB for some time - leading to his now-reneged retirement from limited-overs internationals earlier this year - but until his outburst in the wake of the Headingley Test, Strauss had not been party to the process.
"I wasn't involved in Kevin Pietersen's dispute with the board in any real way but once the players got involved it was very important that I got involved for the very reason that the feelings in the dressing room, the way the players interact with each other, the values we have as a group, are of vital importance to me and I'm not willing to turn a blind eye to that.
"It's going to be a long process. It is not the sort of thing that happens overnight. Unfortunately we have to address this issue. It is not one that we can sweep under the carpet. In order to move forward we need to address these issues head on and try and find some resolution to those.
"It is a broader issue than just the text messages. A lot has happened over the last week or so. It's about trust and mutual respect and any team that operates successfully needs to have that. And that is something we need to work on. It is not between me and him, particularly. The text messages sound like I was involved with it, but it is a broader issue, it is about the team and Kevin and how we interact with each other."
"He is a world-class player, I don't think anyone would deny that, and when he is playing well and everything is happy in the dressing room he is a great asset to the side but that is not where we are right at the moment and I think the selectors made a brave and very correct decision for this particular Test match that he didn't play because without the resolution to the issues that we need to resolve things would be a bit untenable in the dressing room for this game."
England must win the third and final Test of the series in order to defend the No. 1 Test ranking and Strauss admitted the side's preparations had not been ideal.
"It's going to be testing," he said. "As England captain things are sometimes thrown your way in a way that you have not necessarily been prepared to deal with.
"We have to look at the best way of moving forward and quite frankly for the next five or six days it is not going to be in the forefront of my mind. I have to concentrate on my batting and leading the side out in the middle and we will address these issues come the end of the Test match.
"Adversity can bring you slightly closer together. We have seen that before with us on a number of occasions. That is going to be the test of us this week. I have got every confidence that we can win this Test match. This is a great opportunity for us to show some strength and resolve and come through."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo