Cook silent on Pietersen future
Alastair Cook, England's Test and one-day captain, refused to comment on Kevin Pietersen's international future during a cagey press conference ahead of the first ODI in Melbourne. Asked about the reported breakdown of relations between Pietersen and the England team director, Andy Flower, Cook attempted to dead-bat the issue.
"It's very hard for me to talk to you the media about this. It's very hard," he said. "I can't do that. Confidentiality and stuff like that - what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. I refuse to do that."
Cook, speaking for the first time since the latest stories emerged, appeared uncomfortable with the line of questioning, as the difficulties of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash threatened to bleed into subsequent engagements. Asked whether his silence could be construed as a failure to endorse Pietersen, he replied: "You can regard it as you want."
Speaking to the BBC, Cook said there could be no guarantees about Pietersen's future involvement. "If I gave one player reassurance there could be 10 players who want that... it's unfair for us to do that," he said.
Cook has had less than a week to digest England's disastrous Test campaign and, even as attentions begin to shift towards one-day cricket and a year of planning and preparation for the World Cup, he has understandably continued to sift through the Ashes. He met with Paul Downton, the new managing director of England cricket, in Melbourne this week and has been told that he will remain in charge to lead the rebuilding of the Test side.
"Obviously when you lose a series 5-0 a lot of things get thrown up and thrown in your face as a captain," he said. "You start looking at everything and it is important that we do that. What is also important is that it has only been a week since everything happened.
"I would be wrong if I wasn't lying in my bed over the last week or so thinking about stuff I would like to do and how I would like to lead this side forward and the decisions which go with that.
"It's nice knowing you have the opportunity to make amends and I'm desperate to do it. The challenge is whether I'm good enough and we'll see over the next few years, or however long."
The five-match ODI series against Australia will provide an important opportunity for reconnaissance ahead of the 2015 World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand, as well as allowing several players to audition for the Test side. If England do decide to discard Pietersen - whose return to the side after a turbulent 2012 was one of Cook's first acts as Test captain - then the likes of Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan have plenty to gain over the coming weeks.
"What is important for me is the one-day series at this precise moment in time," he said. "My total focus has to be on us winning games of cricket in this series. We have a World Cup in 2015 in exactly the same conditions as we are going to experience here and that has to be given my full thought. After this series then you go back on to how do we rebuild the Test side."
Cook is one 10 players who remain from the original Ashes squad and he acknowledged it will be a challenge for them to move on from the difficulties of the last two months but he hopes the new players can sense their opportunity.
"We have spoken about it, the guys who played the Tests, about how we want to go about things," Cook said. "When you haven't been scoring runs your confidence will take a hit but it's amazing how quickly it can turn around. One-day cricket can free people up and allow you to express yourself away from the pressures of Test cricket. It will be tough for those lads, but they know if they come through it will bode well.
"The young players know they have a World Cup in a year's time and after seeing what happened to the Test team they'll be thinking there are a lot of places up for grabs."