With every passing day, Kevin Pietersen's international career looks to have come to its sorry end. After being omitted yesterday from England's World Twenty20 squad and the limited-overs series against South Africa, he was urged to deal "man to man" with the issues separating him and the team management.
Pietersen seems as far as ever from settling not only contractual discord but also the matter of the text messages he sent to members of South Africa's team during the recent Investec Test series, apparently containing unseemly comments about his captain, Andrew Strauss, and coach, Andy Flower. Although suggestions of what they said have been leaked, there is a shortage of detail, which the England and Wales Cricket Board is determined to unearth if Pietersen is to have any chance of playing again.
After it emerged yesterday from the Pietersen camp that arrangements were being made for more talks next week, Flower said: "These things should remain private. I don't think they should be played out in the media so leaking information or using PR agencies to resolve this is not the correct way to go about it. Face to face and man to man, where you can look people in the eye is always the best way."
If it was no surprise that Pietersen was left out of the one-day squad to play South Africa, the absence of Stuart Broad was. Patently down on pace, he has been urgently rested in the hope he can regain strength for the heavy schedule to follow.
The wrangle between Pietersen and his employers has continued for months but reached a nadir with the text revelations. Since then he has reversed a decision to quit limited-overs cricket and apologised to Strauss and the team about the messages, merely calling them provocative.
But Flower said that the apology had come to the ECB via Pietersen's agent and he clearly did not consider that came close to bringing the dispute to an end. Pietersen was dropped by England following the second Test against South Africa in Leeds, where he made a coruscating century. His alienation from the rest of the team was crystallised by the text messages and, when he declined to admit to them, he was left out for the crucial third Test at Lord's, which England lost by 51 runs on Monday, and with it the series and their No 1 place in the world rankings.
However, Flower conceded that he and England might have handled some things differently, including acting when he heard that some of the players were looking at a cod Twitter account in Pietersen's name which made fun of him.
But he said: "Let's just be perfectly clear on the severity of the situation. There is one thing a few players having a giggle at a Twitter account, there is another on some of the issues that we have seen rear their heads over the last two weeks."
There was good news and bad news for Pietersen from the fast bowler Jimmy Anderson, who said the dressing room could have done more to help, adding: "There are two sides to every story." But he also stated that the team could regain their No 1 ranking without Pietersen.
"I don't see why not," said Anderson. "We have seen talented guys coming through. If he doesn't play Test cricket, it would be a huge loss because he is such a devastating player but I don't see why we can't. We have enough talent there to get back to No 1."
The key question remains whether Pietersen will play again. Crunch time will be when central contracts are issued next month and when the party for the tour of India is also named.
England squads: One-day and T20:
One-day International series squad
A N Cook (Essex; capt)
J M Anderson (Lancashire)
J M Bairstow (Yorkshire)
I R Bell (Warwickshire)
R S Bopara (Essex)
T T Bresnan (Yorkshire)
J W Dernbach (Surrey)
S T Finn (Middlesex)
C Kieswetter (Somerset)
E J G Morgan (Middlesex)
S R Patel (Nottinghamshire)
G P Swann (Nottinghamshire)
I J L Trott (Warwickshire)
C R Woakes (Warwickshire)
ICC World T20 squad (in addition to ODI squad):
S C J Broad (Notts; capt)
D R Briggs (Hampshire)
J C Buttler (Somerset)
A D Hales (Nottinghamshire)
M J Lumb (Nottinghamshire)
L J Wright (Sussex)
*Cook, Anderson, Bell, Trott and Woakes are only in the ODI squad.Reuse content