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End of line for KP?

The men in the muddle (from left) Andrew Strauss, Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen.

LONDON – Andy Flower, the England team director, has defended England’s handling of Kevin Pietersen and suggested that the player’s desire to appear in a whole season of the Indian Premier League proved to be the catalyst that destabilised his relationship with his team-mates and the ECB.

Flower, speaking for the first time since Pietersen was omitted from the final Test against South Africa, admitted that the batsman may never play for England again, but insisted that the team could retain their No.1 Test ranking even without the man many consider to be their best player. Flower also joined those calling for a window in the international schedule for the IPL, though he conceded there was little realistic hope of that at present.

“I think it’s fair to say that Kevin’s issues over being available for the entire IPL have changed his attitude,” Flower said. “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 did accept responsibility for some failures of man management within the England set up, but insisted that Pietersen was guilty of far more serious errors of judgement.

“You are questioning whether he has been managed properly,” Flower said. “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 confirmed that the ECB had approached officials with the South Africa touring team with a view to being shown the text messages Pietersen sent to their players that are alleged to have contained derogatory comments about England captain Andrew Strauss, but insisted the issue extended deeper than a mere spat between two senior players.

“The issue is not specifically between the captain and Pietersen,” Flower said. “There are a number of unresolved issues and it would be inaccurate to judge it as just an issue between those two.

Flower said Pietersen would not be offered a central contract until the issues were resolved.

It is alleged Pietersen’s texts also suggested to the Proteas how they should bowl to Strauss to dismiss him. (Cricinfo)

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