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February 4, 2014
'I will continue to play, regretfully not for England' - Kevin Pietersen
England will enter a new era without one of their greatest-ever batsmen after the ECB decided not to consider Kevin Pietersen for selection for the forthcoming tour of the Caribbean and subsequent World Twenty20.
A career that spanned 104 Tests and more than 150 limited-overs appearances over nine years, during which time Pietersen became England's leading run-scorer in international cricket yet became one of the most divisive players in their history, now appears to be over.
The final separation comes little more than a year after Pietersen's successful "reintegration" to the team on the tour of India.
The ECB said in a statement that the decision had been unanimous among the England management, adding that "now was the time to start the rebuilding process" after the disappointment of being whitewashed in Australia.
Paul Downton, the new managing director of England cricket, has overseen a strong-minded and controversial decision in his first week in the job.
He led discussions with Alastair Cook, the Test and one-day captain, Ashley Giles, the limited-overs coach who has just returned from Australia, and James Whitaker, the national selector. Downton also met with Pietersen, who had previously indicated his desire to play on, tweeting that he was "determined to help regain the Ashes in 2015" in the wake of England's 5-0 defeat. There was even a teleconference with the ECB's executive board. Democracy has been extensive, if as yet ill explained.
With the announcement of England's World Twenty20 squad expected on Thursday, the ECB took the unprecedented step of holding "policy meetings" solely to discuss the eligibility of one player: Pietersen. He spent the day of his sacking giving a class on how to play spin bowling to his Surrey team-mates at The Oval.
"Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country's leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates," Downton said.
"However everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy.
"England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill. This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career."
Pietersen and his representatives seemed to have accepted the inevitable. Adam Wheatley, director of Missions Sports Management, Pietersen's agent, tweeted: "Had a couple of meetings today. What's everyone else been up to?"
|"We have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy" Paul Downton, England managing director|
In a statement released by the ECB, Pietersen: "Playing cricket for my country has been an honour. Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me forever.
"Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I'm also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years. I feel extremely fortunate to have played at a time of great success for England cricket alongside some of the best cricketers the country has ever produced.
"I want to thank everyone for their fantastic support and I wish the team the very best of success going forward. I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won't be for England."
The news of England forcibly retiring one of their most experienced players comes less than a week after Andy Flower stepped down as team director and follows the retirement of Graeme Swann during the disastrous Ashes tour.
Few would seriously contend that there are valid cricketing reasons to omit Pietersen for the World Twenty20 and, whatever rumours and counter-rumours swirl around England's most controversial son, no specific examples of misbehaviour in Australia have been made public.
England have not revealed any disciplinary issues on the tour of Australia, which could have led to an official fine or reprimand. Neither have they confirmed reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that Pietersen and Cook were involved in a ''heated'' discussion at the SCG members' bar on the eve of the fifth Test.
People will wonder how Flower and his extensive management team, amounting to more than 20 backroom staff, could still fail to manage England's most maverick player - and whether the supposedly collapsing "team ethic and philosophy" is being blamed solely on one man.
Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, was one of the first ex-stars to ask for clarification. "I think the ECB have to explain to everyone exactly what KP has done so we can all have clarity and reasoning," he tweeted.
There have been suggestions that Cook's opinion would be highly influential in the decision - it had even been said in some quarters that he would "have the final word" - yet if that was true it would raise disturbing inconsistencies. Cook might be England's Test captain but he does not even play Twenty20 cricket - yet his opinion could have swung the decision on whether Pietersen was available for the World Twenty 20.
England's rejection of Pietersen will now make him an even more coveted asset in IPL. The IPL auction takes place on February 12 and Pietersen, even at 33, would be bound to attract a sizeable bid if he was available for the entire tournament and driven by a determination to prove England wrong. He is a free agent after being released by Delhi Daredevils, who did not retain any of their squad.
He remains centrally contracted to the ECB and, although there has been no indication of whether he will be treated differently from any other England player - those hoping to play in the IPL must be back in the UK by May 13, ahead of the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka - the nature of the joint statement suggests he can stay for the duration. It will be intriguing to see whether he also plays one-day cricket for Surrey.
The 5-0 whitewash in Australia seems to have reopened rifts in the England dressing room. Pietersen is thought to have regarded Flower's management as overly intense and serious and was thought to be hopeful that Giles, the limited-overs coach, would encourage a more relaxed environment. But Pietersen was rested from the limited-overs leg of the Australia tour as England lost the ODIs 4-1 and went down 3-0 in the T20 series.
Friction between Pietersen and the ECB existed long before the Ashes series. At the start of 2009, he lost the captaincy after questioning the qualities of the coach, Peter Moores, who was also sacked; in 2012, he retired from ODI and T20 cricket and then was dropped after sending texts to members of the touring South Africa team.
Reports after the conclusion of the Test series against Australia had suggested that Flower wanted Pietersen excluded from the England set-up if he was to continue as team director. Flower denied giving the ECB an ultimatum but pointedly did not extend his support to Pietersen.
Giles, the favourite to replace Flower as team director, had previously called Pietersen a "million-pound asset", when asked about his future in Australia. If the decision to dispense with his services was unanimous, that represents quite a financial crash.
Cook was central to Pietersen's return to the Test side in India in 2012, where England claimed an historic series victory. However, it seems that support has evaporated for a player routinely described as one of the most exciting and talented ever to represent England.
It is understood that Flower was not part of the meeting about Pietersen's future but he has remained as a selector for an as-yet unstated interim period and has indicated that he will sit on the selection panel to choose the one-day squads for the West Indies and World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
Pietersen is England's leading run scorer in all formats, with 13,797 runs in 277 matches. He is fourth on England's Test match runs list and second in terms of centuries, behind only Cook. Ahead of Pietersen playing his 100th Test in the first match of the Ashes in Australia, Mark Nicholas wrote: "That he does so on Thursday says much about his fabulous ability and something more about a ruthlessness in him that is not always apparent. He is close to being regarded as a truly great cricketer, England's first since Ian Botham."
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