Cow Corner

ECB have got it wrong on KP

Cow Corner

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It was back in May that Kevin Pietersen made a surprising decision to retire from one-day international cricket — and since then his and England's fortunes have suffered a dramatic decline.

Despite the fact that England have in that time lost their Test captain and their status as the world's top team, it's still Pietersen who dominates all discussions about the team.

Pietersen's omission from the squad to tour India today will surprise about as much as the appearance of Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins on the shortlist for the Sports Personality of the Year award.

We knew it was coming, just as we did when he missed out on a central contract, and when the boat finally sailed on his chances of joining up with England's World T20 squad.

In the space of an English summer Pietersen has retired, unretired, slagged off his captain to the opposition, been axed, and now been all but retired.

For a man who set this process in motion, Pietersen may feel somewhat shell-shocked by the way that the agenda has been ripped out of his hands. All he will have now to console himself, as things stand, will be the £1.3m contract he holds to play for the Delhi Daredevils.

Few would gladly pass such riches up, but whether the IPL will be reward enough for Pietersen — it was, at one point, why he was prepared to discuss missing Test matches with the England hierarchy — remains to be seen. Pietersen's camp released a statement in the wake of his absence from the India tour expressing his disappointment, and suggesting he had held up his end of the bargain as a resolution to the KP/ECB stand-off was sought. He does not sound like a man who is happy to accept that his international career is over and go quietly into the night.

"Pietersen has met with - and apologised to - Andrew Strauss," the statement said. "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 wrongdoing; 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 tactical advice to the South Africans. Pietersen remains available for England."

Another day, another England announcement, and despite a new Test captain, two uncapped players receiving their first call-ups, and a squad of 16 to pore over, once again Pietersen is the talking point.

And for that, the ECB must shoulder the responsibility. They have a managing director in Morris whose reputation has been eroded by this situation festering and worsening. His explanation for KP's absence — "there are still issues to be resolved, Kevin has not been considered for selection for the India tour" — is, given the time available to resolve the issue, deeply unsatisfactory.

Because this, once again, is not England's final answer on Pietersen. It is limbo. It does not represent the end of the matter; nor, probably, does it represent the beginning of the end. Were Winston Churchill still alive, he might have his reservations about even branding it the end of the beginning. Picking him seems a better solution - so too does saying he will not be picked again.

And while England plough on in this period of uncertainty, Pietersen's presence cannot help but overshadow every less than convincing display from the players picked instead.

England had no say over having to defend their World T20 title in their unfavoured conditions of the subcontinent — but they did have a say over whether they chose the player of the previous tournament or left him at home (or, to be more precise, in Sri Lanka working as a pundit for television).

Likewise, it was their call to go to India later this year with four batsman who boast a combined total of 20 caps to their name, knowing that at least two and possibly three will have to play.

Ultimately, it is their decision that Pietersen continues to be sidelined without being unequivocally cast aside. England move on without moving on.

And while England cannot do so, how can Pietersen, the media or the fans be expected to?

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