Flower believes the England team have to forget about Pietersen and concentrate on becoming the number one Test team again
England team director Andy Flower has announced that he believes Kevin Pietersen’s desire to play in a full season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the main cause of destabilising relations between him, his team-mates and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Flower, who spoke about the issue for the first time since Pietersen was ousted from the Test squad, admitted that there was a definite possibility of Pietersen never representing England again.
However, since losing their number one Test team ranking to South Africa in a recent series, Flower wants the England squad to focus on taking back the top spot with or without Pietersen in the squad.
Flower has also joined the growing number of players, both past and present, in calling for a window within the international schedule to be dedicated to the IPL, but believes that the chances of it happening are really slim.
“I think it’s fair to say that Kevin’s issues over being available for the entire IPL have changed his attitude, I think that was the catalyst for a lot of the stuff. The IPL and the international fixtures in England are an area of conflict. And it will continue to be an area of conflict in the future. It would be better if there was a very clear window prior to our international season starting. But it doesn’t look like that is an issue that is going to be sorted out in the future so it may well recur,” Flower said.
Flower accepted responsibility for having failed in some areas of managing the England team, but stated that Pietersen was guilty of far more serious errors of judgement.
“You are questioning whether he has been managed properly, I suppose it’s fair to ask that question. I think that’s what we’ve been doing over the years. There are certain behaviours that are unacceptable and I think we’ve seen some of that just recently. So to move forward we must get over those hurdles. If you are asking if we take some responsibility for it I’m quite happy to take responsibility for a number of issues if that is the case. I don’t think text messages from an England player to South African players with some of the content I’ve heard that is in them is my responsibility. I think one issue that I could have handled better is when I heard that some of the players were occasionally looking at that Twitter account that had been set up by some England supporter, or Nottingham supporter. I could have nipped that in the bud earlier. But 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. It is not just about the text messages, there are other issues to be resolved,” Flower added.
Flower confirmed that the ECB had approached officials within the South African camp to get an idea on just what kind of derogatory messages Pietersen had sent about his team-mates, including captain Andrew Strauss, to South African pace bowler Dale Steyn and wicketkeeper-batsman AB de Villiers, but the England coach noted that issue goes far beyond some simple spat between Pietersen and Strauss.
“The issue is not specifically between the captain and Pietersen, there are a number of unresolved issues and it would be inaccurate to judge it as just an issue between those two. At this juncture there’s no meeting in the diary. We’ve just finished this Test match. I understand some people would like this resolved overnight, but I don’t think it is something that can be resolved overnight if we want to go about it properly. There are a number of outstanding issues to be resolved. An example of that would be finding out exactly what these text messages contained if we do really want to move forward either way. I think face to face and man to man, where you can look people in the eye, is always the best way to resolve most issues. I think these things should remain private. I don’t think they should be played out in the media so leaking information, using PR agencies etc to resolve this issue is not the correct way to go about it. I’m not sure of exactly the best way to investigate it, to be honest. We’ve tried to focus on playing cricket leading up to this Test match which is how this Test series should have been. It’s really sad for everyone involved the focus wasn’t on playing cricket here,” Flower said.
Even though Pietersen has sent a letter of apology to the ECB, Flower still thinks it will not be enough to resolve the current situation.
Flower also mentioned that it would be hard to resolve the issue before the new central contracts are handed out, which is likely to happen before the team leaves for Sri Lanka to play in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20.
With the dispute between Pietersen and the ECB far from over, Flower confirmed that the batsman would not be given a central contract until everything had been resolved.
“He sent an apology via his agent to the ECB, if you are going to move on from situations such as this you need to know exactly what situation you are moving on from. So I think we need to get to the bottom of some of this speculation and rumours before we move on. Regardless of central contracts, I wouldn’t like to put a time frame on it because that might unrealistic. To resolve certain issues of trust and mutual respect, it might take longer than that. I would rather not speculate [on whether Pietersen may have played his last game for England]. But he was speculating on it during the Test series, so there is a chance I suppose,” Flower said.
When asked if England could become the number one Test team without Pietersen, Flower said: “Without a doubt, English cricket has a great history and it has a great future. It is bigger than any one player. You will always move on from anyone, whether it be a captain, a coach or a player. I think the most important thing is that we do the right thing for England cricket. That’s how we will make our decision. We try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the England cricket team or English cricket. That is what I’ve tried to do since I joined this team and that’s what I will continue to do.”