England captain Alastair Cook insists he issued no ultimatum that led to Kevin Pietersen’s ongoing exile from the national side.
After Andrew Strauss, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new director of cricket, confirmed Pietersen would remain in the international wilderness, reports emerged that Cook had issued a ‘him or me’ ultimatum to his new players and threatened to resign if the South Africa-born star batsman was recalled to the side.
Pietersen has been in the international wilderness for some 15 months since the team’s 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia.
Speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Wednesday, Cook said the decision over Pietersen had been taken by Strauss and new ECB chief executive Tom Harrison alone.
“There was no ultimatum. I can deny that,” said Cook. “I don’t know quite where that came from.
“There is nothing we can do about it as players. The decision has been made, by Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison,” the opening batsman added ahead of Thursday’s first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
But although he wasn’t a party to the decision, Cook said he supported Pietersen’s continuing absence from the England team.
“I do agree with the decision, yes,” he said.
Since England’s recent 1-1 series draw in the West Indies, Strauss has also presided over the sacking of England coach Peter Moores, with assistant coach Paul Farbrace now in caretaker charge.
“It’s been an interesting two weeks,” added Cook.
“I’m responsible for the team out on the field and the 10 other guys who are going to be with me on another fantastic occasion at a great ground,” Cook explained.
“We’ve got to focus on that and all the external stuff is now focused on other people,” added Cook.
England continue to look for a permanent successor to Moores – with former Australia fast bowler turned Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie a leading candidate.
Cook said it was a challenge to have an interim coach but it was good to have Farbrace there.
Strauss told Pietersen, his predecessor as England captain, that a “massive trust issue” prevented him being recalled for this season’s home internationals with New Zealand and Australia.
That appeared to contradict earlier comments from new ECB chairman Colin Graves that a return was possible if Pietersen scored enough runs in county cricket.
Unfortunately for Pietersen, Strauss told him he would remain frozen out of England contention shortly after the 34-year-old had scored his maiden first-class triple century, during Surrey’s County Championship match against Leicestershire at The Oval.
Pietersen reacted angrily and he suggested on Wednesday that his ongoing omission from the side might hamper England’s search for a new coach, with Farbrace the only candidate willing to take the job while he was still barred from the international set-up.
“He might be the only one who wants to use a team that’s not allowed to be at full strength,” Pietersen told breathesport.com.