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22 Aug 2012

Andy Flower has dropped the strongest hint yet that Kevin Pietersen will not be offered a new central contract by England next month. It means his exclusion from international cricket will almost certainly continue through the four-Test tour of India and increases the possibility that it could be permanent.

In a series of interviews to review England's 2-0 series defeat by South Africa the team director expressed his doubts that the "deep issues of trust and respect" that led to Pietersen's omission from the third Test at Lord's – including the texts he sent about his captain, Andrew Strauss, to members of the South Africa team during the first Test at The Oval – can be resolved before the next batch of contracts are awarded.

Flower expects the contract negotiations to be completed at around the same time that England name their squad for the India tour, which he said would be before the team leave for their defence of the World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka on 13 September – without Pietersen, whose omission from that squad was confirmed on Tuesday before he made 43 from 43 balls for Surrey in a CB40 match against Glamorgan at The Oval.

That leaves Pietersen less than three weeks to convince the England camp that he is genuinely contrite for the texts and committed to putting all forms of international cricket ahead of his lucrative Indian Premier League contract, as he has recently insisted. Flower said that confirming the contents of the texts would be the necessary first step for that, revealing that so far the only apology has come from his agent to the England and Wales Cricket Board. He also stressed there are "a number of unresolved issues", suggesting that making peace with Strauss would be only a starting point for a possible route back into the team.

Strauss is thought to have made moves to arrange the face-to-face meeting with Pietersen he said was needed and which is now expected to be held next Sunday – after the England captain has returned from a short break with his family, and before he plays a County Championship match for Middlesex next week in an attempt to rebuild his own batting confidence.

"Regardless of central contracts, I wouldn't like to put a time frame on it because that might be unrealistic," said Flower. "To resolve certain issues of trust and mutual respect, it might take longer than that."

Flower also took his share of responsibility for allowing the relationship between Pietersen and the rest of the team to deteriorate to the point where he had to be excluded, specifically for not tackling the issue of the spoof KP Genius Twitter account which amused several England players largely because the real KP struggled to see the funny side of it.

"I could have nipped that in the bud earlier," said Flower. "[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. 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.

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

"I understand some people would like this resolved overnight. I don't think it is something that can be resolved overnight if we want to go about it properly. An example of that would be finding out exactly what these text messages contained if we do really want to move forward either way.

"He sent an apology via his agent to the ECB. If you are going to move on from situations such as this you need to know exactly what situation you are moving on from, so I think we need to get to the bottom of some of this speculation and rumours before we move on. I think it's always nice to have a large element of upfront honesty.

"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."

Flower backed Strauss to "come back feeling very strong" despite his own batting problems. "I think he is a bit drained," he said of the captain. "It's been a hard series for him. Obviously he's been a superb leader for us, he would have wanted to score more runs and that has a wearing effect. And then these peripheral issues have taken a lot of his energy and his enjoyment out of the last few weeks. I think he's done the right thing to get away for a few days with his family so he can recuperate, and he'll come back. He's a strong bloke."


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