England news May 15, 2015

Pietersen given 'no guarantees' - Graves

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Colin Graves, the ECB's new chairman, has moved to defend himself from accusations that he misled Kevin Pietersen in encouraging the batsman to play county cricket in order to win his England place back.

Pietersen abandoned his IPL contract in order to join up with Surrey at the start of the season, after comments from Graves in which he suggested there could be a way back. "If he plays county cricket and scores lots of runs, they can't ignore him," he reportedly told the Telegraph.

Despite Pietersen scoring 355 not out for Surrey this week, Andrew Strauss, newly installed as England's director of cricket, confirmed the door remained closed due to "issues of trust". Pietersen subsequently used his newspaper column to say he had been "deeply misled" and accuse the ECB of being "deceitful".

Graves, who was officially installed as Giles Clarke's successor at the ECB AGM on Thursday, has consistently underlined since then, both publicly and privately, that selection was not in his remit and that he made this abundantly clear at the time. He has now responded to Pietersen's claims via an official statement.

"In the past few days my integrity has been called into question, something I can't accept," he said. "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.

"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. I agreed that nobody particularly emerged with much credit from the whole episode, particularly given his achievements for England.

"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 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."

Graves added that "something has been misunderstood around the conversation and in the following debate" and that had never intimated that he could - or would - influence selection. "What I did stress was that when I took over as chairman I would back those people whose job it was to take decisions on team selection. I stand by that."

Referring to Pietersen's score-settling autobiography and the history of issues with team-mates, Graves reiterated that "trust needs to be restored". He did, however, hold out hope for the future. "Despite everything, he can work with us to rebuild the relationship and make a further contribution to English cricket," Graves said.

It seems clear that Graves was taken aback by the level of resistance to Pietersen within the ECB, including from the captain Alastair Cook, and that when Andrew Strauss emerged as the favourite as the first director of England cricket, the slate was not quite as clean as he had imagined.

Pietersen was expected to be recalled by his IPL franchise this week but sustained calf and Achilles injuries while scoring his maiden triple-century against Leicestershire, ruling him out of the rest of the competition. He is due to play in the Caribbean Premier League in July but his future commitments with Surrey remain unknown.

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