Andrew Strauss says that “inflammatory comments” made by Kevin Pietersen in his controversial autobiography helped explain the star batsman’s ongoing exile from the England team.
Pietersen, England’s leading all-time run-scorer across all formats, has been in the international wilderness since the team returned from their 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia last year.
One of Strauss’s first acts as the new England and Wales Cricket Board’s director of cricket was to tell Pietersen, his predecessor as England captain, that a “massive trust issue” prevented him being recalled for this season’s home internationals with New Zealand and Australia.
That appeared to contradict earlier comments from new ECB chairman Colin Graves that a return was possible if Pietersen scored enough runs in county cricket.
Unfortunately for Pietersen, and indeed for the image of the ECB, Strauss told him he would remain frozen out of England contention shortly after the 34-year-old has scored his maiden first-class triple century.
Strauss’s first week in his new post also saw him sack England coach Peter Moores, but it was his take on Pietersen that provoked the greatest public criticism.
One subsequent report even went as far to say that England captain Alastair Cook would have quit international cricket had Pietersen been allowed back into the side.
Meanwhile, the new-ball pairing of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who in Pietersen’s autobiography were described as operating a “bullying culture” in the England dressing room, may well have not been thrilled by the prospect of again being in the same side as the South Africa-born shotmaker.
Strauss, who infamously let slip exactly what he thought of his former teammate with an obscenity picked up on a stray broadcast mic last year, gave his most complete explanation to date as to why Pietersen was still barred from the England set-up in an article for Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.
“Regardless of form, I hope people can appreciate why it is still not right for Kevin Pietersen to come back into the team,” Strauss wrote.
“Despite the depth of public feeling on this issue, the fact is that over the 16 months since his last appearance in an England shirt little has happened to heal the wounds, on both sides, from the fall-out over his omission and the inflammatory comments made in his book about members of the team cannot easily be overlooked.”
But Australia captain Michael Clarke said England, would be a weaker team without Pietersen, who in 104 Tests has scored 8,181 runs, including 23 hundreds, at an impressive average of 47.28.
Clarke, set to lead Australia during their Ashes defence in England in July, said: “His form has been outstanding, he’s still a great player and I know he wants to play, so I feel for him on that side.
“Any team without Kevin Pietersen in it I don’t think is as strong. His statistics speak for themselves.
“He’s been a wonderful player over a long period of time and he’s obviously still in career-best form,” added Clarke, bidding to lead Australia to a first Test series win in England in 14 years.
Prior to the Ashes, England have a two-match series at home to New Zealand, with the first Test at Lord’s due to start on Thursday.
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