It became pretty clear yesterday that Kevin Pietersen had done something wrong. He apologised in public as his employers had demanded and his apology was accepted, which usually means there have been misdeeds afoot.
What was as clear as a Colombo tuk-tuk driver's sense of direction, however, was the precise nature of his transgression. To hear the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, Giles Clarke, who shared a podium, or at least a table, with Pietersen, he might have been a criminal mastermind.
Drawing on all the dignity, not to mention thespian qualities he could muster, Clarke said: "In our society we believe that when an individual transgresses and when the individual concerned recognises that and apologises then it is important that that individual should be given a real opportunity to be reintegrated into our society. This principle is an essential part of having civilised and sensible ethics."
Safe to say that Pietersen is probably just a bloke who did not get along too well with some other blokes in a cricket team. Now he was being given a chance, after a lot of shenanigans, to show that he could get on with them.
By the time Pietersen and Clarke arrived together at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo they had already spent several hours together at its sister, the Cinnamon Grand, a mile down the road. Pietersen had arrived in the lobby at the Grand dressed in a light grey suit at around 12.30pm and after a few minutes he was escorted upstairs by Clarke's Australian PA, who virtually sprinted to meet him.
It transpired later that this rendezvous was the initial part of a grandly named "process of reintegration" which, if and when it is completed, will mean Pietersen can play for England again. But he will have to get on better with the other blokes than he has been doing.
At 2.50pm a message was received by English journalists, in Colombo to cover the World Twenty20, that there would be a briefing at 4pm. This was what they had been waiting for most of the past six weeks since Pietersen's relationship with the dressing room finally broke down and an exasperated management dropped him.
They arrived gradually in small groups. The briefing was to take place in a room in the basement. There was some chit-chat about what questions might be asked of the pair and that this might be more revealing than any old prepared statements and some moaning about another day when the sale of alcohol was forbidden.
This discussion was curtailed when the England media relations manager, who had to stay on for this after the beaten men's team had been eliminated from the tournament, appeared to announce the procedure. Both Pietersen and Clarke would read out prepared statements and then would take a mere three questions.
Here was the rub. They were also insisting on who would ask the questions. Between them Clarke and Pietersen had decided who they wanted interrogating them. One question went to the man from Sky Television and one each to two newspapers other than this one.
This was annoying but understandable if you were Pietersen or Clarke and wanted to avoid the sort of ferociously unreasonable question which would make water boarding bearable. It was vaguely decided collectively what the two questions would be, though reporters are a pretty disorganised rabble.
At 3.55pm, Pietersen and Clarke strode by. Pietersen was still in his light grey number. He has been seen a lot in suits this past fortnight as part of his duties as pundit on ESPNStar, the host broadcasters at the World Twenty20.
Clarke was dapper in a suit of dark blue silk, material from China, tailored in Bristol. At the appointed time they took their places at a small desk. It had been impossible to think that Pietersen would ever be this close to an English cricket official again.
They read their statements. Clarke went first and if he had not been practising then he is a natural. There were verbal flourishes, intonations, gravitas, drama. He milked the moment. He could have been a judge telling the miscreant alongside him that he was forgiven for his sins.
Pietersen had not a chance next to this. He read the statement all right but it was desultory stuff by comparison. He apologised but there was no fervour in it. This is not to say that he was insincere, just that he was not used to reading prepared statements in public.
"Playing for England is the pinnacle of everyone's career and I want the opportunity to do that again as soon as possible," he said. "Some of the proudest and best moments of my life have been in an England shirt and I want them to continue for as long as possible." He wanted his son to follow him in an England shirt, he said.
The questions came next. And went. Pietersen was asked reasonably how things had gone so wrong.
"Look, I'm here today to talk about going forward," he said. "We've both talked about situations that have gone on and for various reasons I don't want to go into other issues. It's a case of us moving forward and not dwelling on what has gone on. It's a private matter to move forward from here.
Clarke put it another way. "We're not here to talk about archaeology. We've looked at the archaeology and we're moving forward." But did they dig deep enough? That was another unasked question.
There was just time for Pietersen to have his own stab at the moral dilemma of it all. Could it ever be the same again. "I hope so. I really do believe that we have a really good opportunity here for everything to be sorted. We're all human beings. We all make mistakes. I've apologised for them and now it's time to move forward and hopefully have a successful time moving forward."
But what were those mistakes? What had he done, refuse to let Graeme Swann play on the X-box, fail to appear at celebration booze-ups when England win? Just be a pain in the bottom? Nobody was saying. Archaeology is a dead subject.
Strauss calls for honesty and moving on
Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, has called for unity in the wake of Kevin Pietersen's return to the England set-up.
"It's obviously been a difficult situation for everyone really," said Strauss, who stood down at the end of August. "If Andy [Flower, England coach] and Cooky [Alastair Cook, his replacement as captain] and the ECB think the time is right now then obviously we all need to get behind them."
He admitted: "I didn't think it was going to happen this quickly," but added: "Once he's back in the side it's very important that people move on. People have to sit down and be honest with each other, saying how they felt and getting it out of their systems. It's about commitment to England and the principles and standards by which the team operates."
Graham OtwayReuse content