Andrew Strauss has been given the task of trying to unify the England cricket team after being appointed as captain for the tour of the West Indies following Kevin Pietersen’s resignation.
Even by the standards of English cricket, Wednesday was a dramatic day with both Pietersen and coach Peter Moores quitting their posts.
England cricket managing director Hugh Morris indicated there was little alternative after the “irretrievable breakdown” of Pietersen and Moores’ working relationship.
Pietersen had questioned the ability of Moores as a coach in a dispute which became public just weeks before England depart on Jan. 21 for a tour of the Caribbean.
Pietersen said in his own statement issued earlier on Wednesday: “I consider it would be extremely difficult for me to continue my current position with the England cricket team.”
“Accordingly I have as of this afternoon decided to stand down as England captain with immediate effect,” he said.
However, he stressed: “Notwithstanding my resignation as England captain I fully intend to be part of both England’s Test and One-Day International squad to tour the West Indies next month, and to do all I can to recapture the Ashes during the summer.”
Strauss stood in as England captain in 2006 when Michael Vaughan was injured and led the side to a series win over Pakistan.
But he was stripped of the captaincy for the subsequent tour of Australia.
Although well regarded by both the management and his colleagues, Strauss, unlike Pietersen, is not currently a member of the England one-day side.
Ex-England captain Nasser Hussain attacked Pietersen and cricket chiefs over the situation.
Hussain said: “The ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] knew exactly when they gave Kevin Pietersen the job, what sort of guy he is.”
“That’s why I thought they gave him the job, because he was abrasive, he was going to be in your face and take people on,” he said. “They must have known it was eventually going to come to a clash between Pietersen and Moores.”
But Hussain also criticized the conduct of Pietersen, not due back from a holiday in his native South Africa until yesterday.
“You can’t just sit on safari in South Africa and issue ultimatums to the board about the England cricket captaincy. It is far too important for that,” he said.
Allan Lamb, like Pietersen a South Africa-born batsman who played for England, said the row had made English cricket look ridiculous.
“We are a laughing stock at the moment, we are a total shambles ... and Pietersen is to blame for that,” he said.
Pietersen’s resignation as was inevitable when it became clear his teammates were not behind him in his row with Moores, the British press said yesterday.
“Knifed in the Back” headlined the tabloid Daily Mirror, saying Pietersen quit before he was pushed after a “startling vote of no confidence from his own players” left him with “no room for manoeuvre.”
At the same time, however, it laid much of the blame on Pietersen for taking such a public stand against the England coach, splashing the headline: “The Ego with Egg on his Face.”
Some of the papers blamed star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff for picking Moores over Pietersen in the row, with the Daily Mail headlining: “Flintoff leads a mutiny.”
The Times blamed Moores’s “aggressive style of management,” but said Pietersen “cannot issue an ultimatum to his employers at the first sign of disagreement, especially when he does not have the full backing of his own players.”