On a day when the England and Wales Cricket Board sought to bring clarity to the situation, the events only served to muddy the waters further.
Strauss, along with the ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, met with Pietersen on Monday night to relay the message that, despite scoring a triple-century for the first time in his career that day, the batsman would continue to be excluded due to an ongoing ‘lack of trust’.
“Kevin and I had a private conversation last night,” said Strauss. “I said to him that we had no plans for him to play for England this summer, and could make no guarantees going forward, so that allowed him to get clarity on the situation. He wasn’t happy with the decision and I didn’t expect him to be.”
Pietersen later wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph: “I am absolutely devastated that it looks like my hopes of an England recall have been brought to a close.
“I just find it incredibly deceitful what has happened to me and am frankly finding it difficult to understand right now. I have done everything I have been asked. I keep asking myself, what more could I do?”
Pietersen is now blaming the initial encouragement from the incoming ECB chairman, Colin Graves, who told the batsman in March to seek out a county deal and score the mountain of runs that would cause a rethink by the selectors.
“Tom [Harrison] has tried to say that Colin Graves was misrepresented by the media when he said there was a way back for me,” said Pietersen. “I’m afraid, as everyone can clearly see, this is the biggest load of rubbish. I had two phone conversations with Colin Graves and he was crystal clear in saying I had to get a county, score runs and that there was a clean slate.”
Strauss added: “[Pietersen] has been phenomenal for England over a long period of time and he should be very proud of that record. But we’re in a position now where there’s a massive trust issue between him and the ECB. I’m not apportioning any blame. It’s happened over a number of years.”
“They have used the word trust to justify not selecting me, well, trust is a two-way thing,” replied Pietersen. “I couldn’t believe just half an hour after I had my meeting, the result of it was on the internet and on the BBC airwaves. Now I certainly didn’t tell anybody, so who did? They say they don’t trust me but how can anybody trust them?”
Pietersen also implied that Strauss has “been given permission to lose the Ashes” because he has been asked to focus on longer-term goals rather than the forthcoming series against Australia.
The tense meeting after stumps on Monday, in which Harrison stepped outside for the initial exchange of words, saw Strauss seek to placate the situation by offering Pietersen a role as a special advisor to the one-day team. Not surprisingly, the 34-year-old, who batted on into Tuesday to record a career-best 355 not out against Leicestershire at The Oval, in what could prove his final first-class innings as he heads to the Indian Premier League on Friday, declined.
When asked why he would seek to hire a man he did not trust, Strauss replied: “Because when it comes to one-day cricket we’ve got to be prepared to think outside the box. I also saw it, if I’m honest with you, as a way of potentially trying to build trust again. At the moment he doesn’t feel he’s able to take up that position, and I understand that. But I hope in time he might reconsider.”
England supporters left angry by Pietersen’s removal from the setup in February last year and seeking further explanation as to who in a new-look ECB set-up, bar Strauss, Pietersen has issues with, will be disappointed. “There have been a number of issues over the years,” said Strauss. “Is there any point going over that again, and dragging up the dirty laundry? My job is to create a pathway for the England team going forward.”
Strauss insisted the decision to keep Pietersen at arm’s length was not run past Alastair Cook, while confirming his former opening partner will remain as Test captain for the foreseeable.
“I know that Alastair is the right man to lead England cricket this summer,” said Strauss. “He’s had a difficult time with all sorts of issues, including Kevin Pietersen and his own form. English cricket needs stability at the moment, and he can provide that.”
While Strauss will oversee selection, he said that the existing panel of James Whitaker, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell will continue while the structure is reviewed.
Joe Root has been promoted to Test vice-captain in order to enhance his leadership experience with Eoin Morgan remaining in charge of the one-day side, despite the abysmal World Cup campaign, and has now absorbed the Twenty20 job, a position previously held by Stuart Broad.
With the assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, taking over from sacked head coach Peter Moores in a caretaker capacity for the Test series against New Zealand, Strauss will now turn his attention to the recruitment of a permanent replacement. The mastermind of Yorkshire’s title win last season, Jason Gillespie, remains the favourite, with his presence on the shortlist of candidates confirmed by Strauss.
The director of England cricket did not hold back with his verdict on Moores, whose second spell in charge was ended on Saturday. “I knew it was important we made a change of coach,” said Strauss. “Peter has done a very good job in developing players, his record is outstanding in that regard. But in some areas around strategy and tactics he was exposed in international cricket – we saw that at the World Cup.
“But more than anything I think he was undermined by the fact that he’d done the job before, and he was never given the space or the time he needed. He very quickly got to the situation where every game was a referendum on whether the coach should stay or go. That’s not fair on him, or the players. By making that call, hopefully we’ve allowed the players that space and time and taken some of the pressure off them.”
While Strauss was less than complimentary, there was regret shown by the ECB chief executive Harrison over the manner of Moores’s sacking on Friday night after news of the impending dismissal was broken by three national newspapers, including the Guardian, as he took his final game in charge, a one-day international against Ireland in Dublin.
“That was a very difficult day and a bad day for us, the ECB. It was a difficult day for me personally and for Peter as well,” admitted Harrison. “He’d been under enormous pressure for a long time and he didn’t deserve what happened to him on Friday. And I’m very sorry that how ever it came about, it came about. There has been an apology to Peter.”
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