The fall-out from England’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash defeat intensified yesterday after team director Andy Flower was moved to deny claims that he no longer wanted Kevin Pietersen to be a part of the national team.
Several national newspapers reported that Flower was willing to walk away from his job if Pietersen remained in the long-term plans of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Flower and Pietersen have endured flashpoints before, most notably in the 2012 summer when Pietersen was left out of the England team after his texting controversy and abrupt decision to retire from one-day internationals.
But claims that Flower is now ready to move forward without Pietersen – after the 45-year-old coach was given ECB backing to retain his job in the wake of the Ashes debacle – were quickly dismissed.
Flower described suggestions he had issued an ultimatum as “totally inaccurate” in a press release issued by the ECB.
Flower added that any decisions over the futures of individual players or support staff would not be made so soon after an emotionally taxing series.
“Following speculation in the media I feel it necessary to reiterate much of what I said in my recent press conference,” Flower said in the statement.
“It would be sensible and responsible to review the tour in a calm and logical manner before assessing our options for the future and planning ahead.
“I repeat that neither I nor the wider ECB leadership group have made any decisions as to the future involvement of any individuals in the playing group or in the support staff.
“The reports that I have issued an ultimatum of some description to the ECB are totally inaccurate.”
Pietersen too felt the need to comment on the newspaper reports, via Twitter, saying he was “shocked and saddened” his England future had again been called into question.
The right-hander had only on Tuesday re-affirmed his commitment to England – amid claims he might opt to retire – saying that he intended to try and win back the little urn in 2015.
Pietersen has also previously stated he would like to become the first England player to reach 10,000 Test runs.
“I am shocked and saddened by reports in the media today concerning my future with England,” Pietersen tweeted.
“I wish to repeat my strong desire to continue playing for my country, and to help us regain the Ashes in 2015.”
Despite the insistence of both coach and player, the matter is unlikely to go away any time soon.
After the Ashes whitewash was confirmed in Sydney last week, Flower revealed his desire to build a “new era” while also pointedly warning that “more pain” would likely be suffered before results turned around.
The Zimbabwean had overseen a hat-trick of Ashes successes before this summer, while England have been top of the rankings in all three formats during his almost five-year tenure.
Ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan believes the loss of either would be a major blow, but concedes something is clearly wrong.
“Andy Flower has seen all the headlines. He might not have said exactly what is reported, but there is clearly an issue between him and Kevin Pietersen,” said Vaughan. “The best player, the maverick, the X-factor player is stood on the boundary during games. He is never involved in any of the team discussions.”