'Sad' Andy Flower hopes Kevin Pietersen will not regret decision to quit limited-overs
Many judgments have been delivered about Kevin Pietersen's retirement from limited-overs cricket. But the opinion offered by England's coach, Andy Flower, has not been at the front of the field. "I'm not annoyed, I think it's quite sad that Kevin's not going to be playing all three forms of the game," he said. "After retiring and looking back at the career he might think 'crikey I wish I'd taken part in more World Cups and helped win the 2015 World Cup with England'. They are great memories and I think it's a little sad he won't get those opportunities any more."
Sad it may be and almost certainly crucial to England's chances of defending the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka this autumn, but Flower's regret also brooked no compromise. He and the team management will not be making a special case for Pietersen, who wanted to continue playing Twenty20 but give up 50-over one-day internationals.
Central contracts stipulate that players must be available for both forms without exception. Flower revealed that Pietersen would have been rested for the one-day series of three matches against West Indies which starts on Saturday but would have been included for those against Australia and South Africa.
Flower said: "He told me he didn't want to play one-day cricket any more. We discussed it fully and the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] explained very clearly what the ramifications were. He was aware he was on a contract and I tried on a number of occasions to dissuade him for, what I believe, is his own good, but he's a 32-year-old man who makes his own decisions. Also he's a very fine international cricketer and makes us stronger when he plays. That's the choice he made."
It will be fascinating to see how Pietersen's relationship with the rest of the dressing room unfolds now that he is available only for Test cricket. With England's Test series against West Indies having finished in a rain-ruined draw at Edgbaston he is going on holiday with his family until the beginning of next month.
Flower seems reasonably assured that he and Pietersen will continue to get along. "I have read occasionally our relationship is not great," he said. "But actually I think we get on pretty well. We're fairly honest with each other and I think we have quite a good working relationship. It's a pretty clear case of Kevin not wanting to play ODI cricket any more. The ECB policy is that you can't do that and play Twenty20 international cricket any more and he's therefore retired from both."
There is a danger Pietersen will find it hard to merge into the dressing room. He is not a loner but nor does he have close friends in the team. Flower conceded the possibility of becoming detached: "I hope not but even Andrew Strauss found it difficult only playing [Tests]. Part of our challenges are to constantly work on our unity." Pietersen has reiterated that he wants to play in the World T20 and it still seems peculiar that he was unwilling to play a summer of one-day cricket to fulfil that aim. Missed though his talent will be, perhaps it is best for all concerned that he has gone now, not later.
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