Kevin Pietersen’s brilliant and controversial international career ended on Tuesday as the fallout from England’s woeful Ashes campaign claimed the scalp of one of the country’s most mercurial batting talents.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) brought the curtain down on Pietersen’s near 10-year spell at the top by leaving him out of the squad for this year’s World Twenty20 and limited-overs tour of the Caribbean.
Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, cited a need “to rebuild not only the team, but also team ethic and philosophy,” effectively closing the door on a player frequently labeled a disruptive influence in the dressing room.
“Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England, as the fact that he is the country’s leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates,” Downton said. “However, everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team, but also team ethic and philosophy.”
“England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin, who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill,” he said. “This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career.”
The 33-year-old South-African born Pietersen, who played in 104 Test matches, 136 one-day internationals and 37 Twenty20 internationals for England, was left in little doubt that he would not grace the international stage again.
“Playing cricket for my country has been an honour. Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me forever,” Pietersen said in a statement. “Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I’m also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years. I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play, but deeply regret that it won’t be for England.”
A swashbuckling batsman, Pietersen polarized opinion and came in for heavy criticism after England’s 5-0 Ashes surrender in Australia, which finished last month, despite being their highest scorer.
Pietersen’s impact on and off the field was dramatic and a year ago he completed his reintegration into the England fold after making peace with the ECB in a row over “provocative” text messages that led to him being dropped.
He even committed to playing for England in all three forms of the game until at least 2015.
However, only last month former England coach Andy Flower felt compelled to issue a statement denying a dressing-room rift.
British media had claimed Flower, who stepped down last week, had threatened to quit if Pietersen continued to be part of the team’s rebuilding process.
The supremely talented Pietersen was hailed as a “million pound asset” by limited-overs coach Ashley Giles, a contender to replace Flower, when named last month in England’s provisional 30-member squad for the Twenty20 World Cup.
Yet the fallout from the woeful Ashes campaign was so stark that many pundits felt England needed a clean slate and that Pietersen would follow spinner Graeme Swann, who retired during the Test series, and Flower out of the door.