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No room for 'disengaged' Pietersen - ECB

Andrew McGlashan
April 21, 2014 « Mata: United paid the penalty | Test Wayin World Cup »
Kevin Pietersen cut a "disengaged" figure during the Sydney Test, according to Paul Downton © PA Photos
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Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, said he had "never seen anyone so disengaged from what was going on" as Kevin Pietersen during the Sydney Test against Australia, which ended up being his final international match.

Downton chose the announcement of Peter Moores as the new head coach to make his first public comment on the sacking of Pietersen, as he tried to draw a line under it while announcing a new era for English cricket. He presided over the dumping of Pietersen just days after officially taking office as Hugh Morris' replacement and revealed it was his observations during the Sydney Test that had raised alarm bells, pinpointing Pietersen's attitude during the match that sealed the 5-0 whitewash.

Pietersen has been winning the PR battle hands down since his split from England. On the day of Moores' return as coach he tweeted "Everyone deserves a second chance", to which Moores, with a smile, responded "good tweet". Pietersen himself has recently said that he continued to hold out hope of resuming his Test career - talking, again, of his target of 10,000 Test runs - but Downton emphatically said "I don't see any intention of going back." Pietersen's second chance, it has been decided, expired some time ago.

A further purge of details is likely to emerge in October when the legal restrictions placed on both parties expire, but Downton insisted there was not a "specific" issue or a "smoking gun" which had tipped the balance and instead hinted towards an accumulation of factors over a lengthy period of time.

"Go back to Australia and watch what happened. I watch quite a lot of cricket. What you saw was a senior England player who had become disconnected from the team," Downton said. "I watched every ball of that Sydney Test and I've never seen anyone so disengaged from what was going on. What you need from a senior player is backing, support, everyone working together and we'd just got to a stage where that was no longer the case."

"If you are looking for a smoking gun there are no specific issues. This is ten years of Kevin scoring very well for England but getting to a point where the balance shifted. During those ten years we had a strong side, strong leadership in terms of established captains and coaches, and that side could accommodate Kevin. That balance has shifted, we have to invest in new players and a new side won't accommodate Kevin. It's as simple as that. It's about the balance of what is best for English cricket.

"The sooner we understand that Kevin has had his time, the better. We are moving on without him. We sat down, talked through it over a number of hours and he was the one, in the end, who wanted to terminate his contract and we came to an agreement to do that. He is free to play wherever he wants around the world, but the sooner that we can focus on young players coming through the more everyone will enjoy it."

The process for Pietersen's departure began almost the moment Downton landed in Australia after the fourth Test, where he began canvasing opinion from within and around the team. Before the Melbourne Test was when the England players called a team meeting, without the knowledge of Andy Flower, to discuss openly what had gone wrong and it is where Pietersen is understood to have been the most vocal voice in the room.

"I arrived in Sydney on December 31, and it was clear from meeting Andy Flower that there were two major issues," Downton said. "He was uncertain about his future and whether he wanted to stay and what we were going to do about Kevin. The issue at the stage was that you had a senior England player who had got disconnected from the team.

"We had to build not for the next three months, but the next two, three, five years and for the side to grow - remember we hadn't replaced Strauss in 18 months, Swann had retired, Trott sadly had gone home and is still recovering now - we had to invest in new players and we had to build a new team with some core values. It was decided that wouldn't happen with Kevin in the side. We decided not to select him. I don't see any intention of going back."

The topic of Pietersen was first raised at Saturday's press conference by a question to Moores about whether his job would be easier this time without the batsman's presence. "Impossible to say," was his diplomatic answer. "I've not worked with this team yet. Every team is different in some ways." He reiterated that there were no hard feelings towards Pietersen over the way his previous spell as coach was terminated.

"I never fell out with Kevin, Kevin fell out with me," he said. "I don't place any blame. I moved on quickly. A strength of mine is I look forward, not back."

English cricket is now trying to look forward, but you sense the name of Pietersen will not be far away for a while to come.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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