Kevin Pietersen pays price as England move on
Root and Compton earn call-ups for India tour after prolonged talks fail to resolve KP issues
As one illustrious career continued inexorably yesterday towards its close, two others may have started. Kevin Pietersen, the most formidable and controversial England cricketer of recent times, was omitted from the squad for the Test tour of India this autumn.
Two uncapped batsmen were chosen: Nick Compton, grandson of one of the most famous of all cricketers, and Joe Root, a 22-year-old from Sheffield, whom it is fervently hoped will be merely the latest in an enduring line of Yorkshire opening batsmen.
Neither Compton, whose forebear Denis scored 5,801 runs for England in the most stylish fashion imaginable, nor Root, who has already evoked comparisons with Michael Vaughan, if not Herbert Sutcliffe, could steal the limelight from Pietersen. That is where he normally likes to be but he, more than anybody, will have known that yesterday at least and for the next few days and weeks, and maybe forever in playing terms, it was all for all the wrong reasons.
His omission – and do not forget he made a stunning 149 in his most recent Test match at Headingley last month – also overshadowed that of Ravi Bopara and, after only two Test matches, the tyro James Taylor, not to mention the inclusion of Eoin Morgan. Pietersen arrived in Colombo yesterday not to join the England team in which he was player of the tournament the last time they played in the World Twenty20 but to act as a pundit for the host broadcasters.
It merely accentuated the schism between him and his more regular employers, the England and Wales Cricket Board. Effectively, Pietersen remains suspended. He says he is available, England will not pick him.
Dropped for England's last Test of the summer against South Africa, Pietersen was expected to be omitted from the tour party. That hardly lessened its impact after days of talks failed to achieve a resolution to the myriad problems that now beset his relationship with the England team.
Lawyers are now involved in trying to mend fences and a professional mediator may yet be called in to try to ensure that Pietersen resumes his place in the England dressing room, a scenario whose likelihood must dwindle with each passing day. It may be a case for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), although for the selection of a sports team to have come to this suggests that it may not be worth the candle.
Pietersen had been disaffected for months in the England dressing room before he gave a press conference following the Test match against South Africa at Leeds in which he told how "it's tough being me in the England dressing room". A few days later it emerged Pietersen had sent text messages to South Africa players disparaging some of his team-mates, including the then captain, Andrew Strauss.
There were differing messages from both sides after the 16-man squad was announced yesterday. Hugh Morris, the managing director of England Cricket, said: "Both ECB and England team management have had meetings with Kevin Pietersen to address the issues... These discussions remain private and confidential and as there are issues still to be resolved Kevin has not been considered for selection for the India tour."
Pietersen issued a statement through his agents, Mission Sports Management, in which he expressed disappointment, though not contrition: "Kevin Pietersen is naturally disappointed about today's decision, having gone to great lengths to reach a reconciliation with the ECB. Pietersen has met with – and apologised to – Andrew Strauss.
"He has also met with Alastair Cook to stress his commitment to England and met with ECB board members, including face-to-face meetings with Hugh Morris, David Collier and Andy Flower, prior to his departure to Sri Lanka. At all times, Pietersen had wished his dealings with the ECB to remain private so as not to inflame an already difficult situation.
"His recent silence was not an admission of any wrong-doing; he wanted to explain and apologise to the ECB for the messages exchanged with members of the South African team. He has also made absolutely clear both to the ECB and the England team that – despite unsubstantiated allegations to the contrary and repeated media speculation – he did NOT offer ANY [sic] tactical advice to the South Africans. Pietersen remains available for England."
The text messages might be significant in this saga as the straw that broke the camel's back, but nobody should make the mistake of thinking all was hunky dory with Pietersen before that. He was disgruntled and his attitude was undoubtedly affecting the team's coach, Andy Flower. If the players weren't involved then, they are now.
Compton and Root have come up on the rails to be picked, with Root probably earmarked for the opening batting spot vacated by Strauss's retirement.
For Test tour of India, 15 Nov-17 Dec:
Alastair Cook (capt), 27, Essex, 83 caps
James Anderson, 30, Lancashire, 73 caps
Jonny Bairstow, 22, Yorkshire, 4 caps
Ian Bell, 30, Warwickshire, 80 caps
Tim Bresnan, 27, Yorkshire, 16 caps
Stuart Broad, 26, King’s XI Punjab, 50 caps
Nick Compton, 29, Somerset, 0 caps
Steven Finn, 23, Middlesex, 16 caps
Graham Onions, 29, Durham, 9 caps
Eoin Morgan, 26, Middlesex, 16 caps
Monty Panesar, 30, Sussex, 42 caps
Samit Patel, 27, Nottinghamshire, 2 caps
Matt Prior, 30, Sussex, 58 caps
Joe Root, 21, Yorkshire, 0 caps
Graeme Swann, 33, Northamptonshire, 46 caps
Jonathan Trott, 31, Warwickshire, 34 caps
1st Test Nov 15, Ahmedabad
2nd Test Nov 23, Mumbai
3rd Test Dec 5, Kolkata
4th Test Dec 13, Nagpur
Matches start at 4am (GMT)
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