London: Kevin Pietersen’s future with England remains in doubt despite an apology on Wednesday for sending “provocative texts” to South Africa players about his teammates.
Pietersen, arguably England’s most talented batsmen, was dropped for the series-defining third test against the country of his birth after the existence of text messages — reportedly about captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower — came to light.
“I apologise to Straussy and the team for the inappropriate remarks and for the texts,” Pietersen said in a statement to the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“I truly didn’t mean to cause upset or tension particularly with important games at stake.”
The apology, which England selectors had asked for prior to naming the squad Sunday, comes too late for him to be included in the test at Lord’s that starts on Thursday. England is 1-0 down in the three-match series.
It is still open to doubt whether Pietersen will ever play for England again.
“We are in receipt of Kevin’s apology but further discussions need to take place to establish whether it is possible to regain the trust and mutual respect required to ensure all parties are able to focus on playing cricket and to maintain the unity and purpose that has served us so well in recent years,” England managing director Hugh Morris said.
The row involving Pietersen couldn’t have come at a worse time for England, which faces losing its No. 1 spot in the world test rankings to South Africa if it fails to win at Lord’s.
Pietersen was given the man-of-the-match award after the drawn second test at Headingley, in which he scored 149 in the first innings and then took four wickets with his occasional offspin.
However, the 32-year-old Pietersen, who began playing for England in 2004 after moving from South Africa and qualifying for residency, has done himself no favors in recent weeks by squabbling with England management about the terms of his central contract.
Pietersen has been keen to play a full season in the lucrative Indian Premier League, which isn’t possible if he is to remain available for tests and one-dayers for England. That is being widely seen as showing a lack of commitment to the England team.
“There are some ongoing issues regarding trust and mutual respect that don’t get dealt with overnight,” said Strauss, speaking soon after Pietersen issued his apology. “The selectors made a very brave and correct decision by not involving him (Pietersen) in the side.
“Kevin is a world-class player, I don’t think anyone would deny that. When he plays well and everyone is happy in the dressing room, he is an asset to the side. That is not the case at the moment.”
Strauss, who will make his 100th test match appearance for England on Thursday, refused to put a timeframe on when, if ever, Pietersen would return to the England team.
“The apology is a first step, definitely. If there is a way forward, issues about trust and mutual respect must be dealt with and it is not a one-way process,” said Strauss. “Talks should take place in private, away from media, without the help of PR companies and press releases.”
South Africa captain Graeme Smith said he was not aware of anything that warranted Pietersen’s exclusion from the England team.
“I think derogatory and provocative are interesting words to use,” Smith said. “As far as I know, it was friendly chat. I have heard nothing that could have undermined Andrew.”