London - England took the seismic decision to sack their best player on Tuesday as the fallout from the worst Ashes tour in their history claimed its most high-profile victim in Kevin Pietersen.
Paul Downton, the new managing director of the England team, made the huge call to dismiss Pietersen - the leading runscorer in England’s history - just three days after overseeing the departure of their most successful coach Andy Flower.
On Tuesday Downton met England captain Alastair Cook and one-day coach Ashley Giles in a hotel opposite Lord’s and they reached the ‘unanimous’ conclusion that Pietersen, after almost as many controversies as runs, is more trouble than he is worth.
The gifted maverick will not be considered for the one-day tour of West Indies and the World Twenty20 that follows next month, meaning an England career of 104 Tests, 23 hundreds and more than 8,000 runs has reached its end.
‘Clearly this has been a tough decision,’ said Downton. ‘Kevin has been an outstanding player for England.
‘However, there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided that the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also the team ethic and philosophy.’
It was the only clue in a bland statement as to the real reasons behind Pietersen’s departure, which Sportsmail understands centre around his attitude, particularly towards the end of the Ashes, and what is perceived to be his poor influence on younger members of the team.
‘Playing cricket for my country has been an honour,’ said the South African-born Pietersen, who chose his mother’s country in 2004. ‘Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and something that will live with me forever.
‘I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play but deeply regret it won’t be for England.’
Pietersen’s departure is the biggest example yet of the dismantling of the England team in the wake of their horror showing in Australia. Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn all left the tour early while Pietersen and Flower have gone for good, although Flower is expected to remain in a development role with the ECB.
Downton’s next job is to find a coach across all formats, with Giles the favourite despite overseeing the 4-1 one-day series defeat in Australia and the 3-0 Twenty20 whitewash.
Pietersen can now be expected to cash in on the Twenty20 circuit and will make himself available for the whole six weeks of the Indian Premier League. He will also play in the Australian Big Bash but first links up with his mentor Graham Ford, the new Surrey coach, for the domestic season. - Daily Mail
* Reuters reports that the swashbuckling batsman polarised opinion, and came in for heavy criticism after England's 5-0 Ashes surrender in Australia, which finished in December, despite being their highest run-scorer.
Pietersen's impact on and off the field was dramatic and a year ago he completed his reintegration into the England fold after making peace with the ECB in a row over “provocative” text messages that led to him being dropped.
He even committed to playing for England in all three forms of the game until at least 2015.
However, only last month former England coach Andy Flower felt compelled to issue a statement denying a dressing-room rift.
British media had claimed Flower, who stepped down last week, had threatened to quit if Pietersen continued to be part of the team's rebuilding process.
Typical of Pietersen's colourful career, the decision to omit him from the England set-up amid only hints of dressing-room discord, has provoked controversy.
Pietersen's former England captain Michael Vaughan told the BBC: “The ECB need to explain exactly what KP does inside the dressing room that they can't manage any longer. You have to manage mavericks; you can't have clones around you all the time.
“Now it's all gone pear-shaped they've got rid of him, and I can't agree with it.”
The call for answers from the ECB was echoed by another former England captain Nasser Hussain.
“There must have been things happening behind the scenes that Flower and (England captain Alastair) Cook weren't amused with and it would be nice to know from the ECB - if you're going to axe one of your best players - what those things are,” he said on Sky Sports.