London: Kevin Pietersen’s controversial England career came to a dramatic end after officials announced Tuesday they “unanimously” wanted to rebuild the side without him following their Ashes thrashing in Australia.
In a joint statement with the 33-year-old former England captain, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced it had left the gifted batsman out of the squads for both the upcoming one-day tour of the West Indies and the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, signalling the end of his international career.
“Playing cricket for my country has been an honour,” said Pietersen.
“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 feel extremely fortunate to have played at a time of great success for England cricket alongside some of the best cricketers the country has ever produced.
“I want to thank everyone for their fantastic support and I wish the team the very best of success going forward.”
He added: “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.”
Newly-appointed ECB managing director Paul Downton, who only recently oversaw the departure of England coach Andy Flower following the Ashes thrashing, hinted the need to restore team harmony, rather than playing ability, had been the key reason behind the “tough decision” to axe Pietersen — England’s leading run-scorer across all formats.
“Everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour,” said Downton. “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,” the former England wicket-keeper added.
Pietersen’s nine-year international career saw him become one of the world’s leading batsmen, his 23 Test hundreds — just two short of the England record held by current England captain Alastair Cook — coming amidst a Test tally of 8,181 runs in 104 matches at an impressive average of 47.28.
During the Ashes debacle, Pietersen was still England’s top scorer in the series despite managing just 294 runs at a rate of 29.40.
At his best, he dominated all-time great bowling in a way given to few batsmen as he proved in a maiden Test hundred when he thrillingly attacked Australian legends Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to rescue a draw that saw England regain the Ashes at The Oval in 2005.
But the South Africa-born shotmaker’s time in the England camp was also beset by off-field problems that saw him fall out with two national team coaches in Peter Moores and Flower, who stepped down on Friday.
Significantly, Pietersen was briefly dropped from the England team in 2012 after sending text messages alleged to be critical of then England captain Andrew Strauss to South African players.
However, he was soon “reintegrated” into the team under new skipper Cook.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said England were potentially damaging their prospects of future wins by getting rid of Pietersen now.
“You have to be able to manage mavericks. You can’t have clones around,” Vaughan, England’s 2005 Ashes-winning captain, told BBC Radio Five.
Vaughan said Tuesday’s announcement made no sense as Pietersen would likely have retired from international duty in just over a year’s time in any case.
“Pietersen will be gone at the end of 2015 — he’d have walked away after two World Cups and the Ashes. It was about managing him for another year-and-a-half to try and get England winning games — manage that maverick,” Vaughan added.
The ECB’s decision, which they said was the “unanimous” view of the England management, including the selectors, appears to leave Pietersen free to spend more time playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League, often a source of friction between him and the ECB hierarchy.