London - England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton gave his most detailed explanation yet on Thursday for the controversial decision to end the international career of the “frustrating” Kevin Pietersen.
The South Africa-born batsman, England's leading run scorer across all formats, was sensationally axed from the national set-up following the team's 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia.
During a Lord's news conference on April 19 where Peter Moores was unveiled as England coach after Andy Flower stood down following the Ashes debacle, Downton said there was “no going back” for the “disconnected” Pietersen and that it was time for everyone involved in English cricket to get behind captain Alastair Cook.
Former England wicketkeeper Downton gave a more detailed explanation for his decision to ditch the 33-year-old Pietersen in an interview with BBC Radio's Test Match Special on Thursday.
“One of the huge issues after Australia was 'what are we going to do about Kevin?', Downton said of a series where Pietersen was England's leading scorer, albeit with just 294 runs at 29.4.
“I watched every ball of the Sydney Test live, and I've never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted as Kevin; it looked very strange,” he added.
“I talked to every person on the management team and quite a few senior players, and I couldn't find one supporter who wanted Kevin to stay in the side.
“There was a significant amount of frustration in terms of his attitude, 'are you really fighting it out?'
“The accusations were that Kevin had too many agendas and wasn't 100 percent focused on playing for England.
“I'm not saying everything that happened in Australia was down to Kevin.
“There is no smoking gun; this was in the best interests of English cricket.
“We'd just lost 5-0 with Kevin in the side. Are you going to back Cook and Ian Bell to be the backbone of that side, or are you going to back Kevin?
“There was a strong feeling in the dressing-room that we weren't going to grow as a side until we addressed that,” Downton insisted.
Pietersen was briefly exiled from the England team when, after making a match saving century against South Africa in the 2012
Headingley Test, it emerged he'd sent “provocative” texts allegedly critical of Strauss to Proteas players.
But Pietersen Ä still on the books at Surrey and currently captaining Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League Ä was soon back in the fold when Cook took over the captaincy following Strauss's retirement.
“It lasted 18 months, and now we've decided on a split,” said Downton.
“We went to Kevin and said we weren't going to pick him for the World Twenty20 (in Bangladesh this year) and it was clear from then that he wanted to reach a settlement on his central contract, as we couldn't offer him any guarantees on the summer Ä we would have been happy to let the contract run out.
“He wanted freedom to play where he wanted to play, and won a very big (IPL) contract because of that.”
But former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott, said Pietersen would still be playing international cricket if he was under a better 'man-manager' as England captain.
“Would Kevin Pietersen still be playing Test cricket if Michael Vaughan, Mike Brearley or Raymond Illingworth was captaining the side?,” Boycott said.
“My answer is categorically, 10 out of 10, yes.”