Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Kevin Pietersen was just too hot for Alastair Cook to handle

Kevin Pietersen (left) with England captain Alastair Cook, said to have played a key role in the batsman's England exit

England captain Alastair Cook played an influential role in the decision to end Kevin Pietersen's international career.

Cook was part of a three-man panel who met the batsman on Monday and told him of their decision.

Although some members of the England dressing room have no issues with Pietersen, it is understood Cook felt the 33-year-old's departure was in the best interests of the team.

Pietersen scored 8,181 runs at an average of 47 in 104 Tests for England.

Cook, who succeeded Andrew Strauss as captain in August 2012, brought Pietersen back into the England fold after he had been dropped for sending provocative text messages to South Africa players.

But following England's disastrous 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia, during which Pietersen was criticised for repeatedly falling to reckless shots, the captain wants to mould a new team with a new culture for the next five years.

Pietersen was summoned to a meeting on Monday with Cook, new England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton and chairman of selectors James Whittaker at the Danubius Hotel near Lord's.

That was followed on Tuesday by a separate meeting involving Pietersen's agent Adam Wheatley, Professional Cricketers' Association chief executive Angus Porter and Downton to discuss the severance terms of his 12-month central contract signed in October.

On Tuesday evening, the ECB sent out a press release in which Downton, who had the final say on Pietersen's departure, stated: "The time is right to rebuild not only the team but also the team ethic."

Meanwhile, Matt Prior responded to accusations of "hypocrisy" from celebrity cricket follower Piers Morgan.

In the latest of a series of angry Twitter messages from Morgan, he turned his attention to the England wicketkeeper.

Morgan, a friend of Pietersen's, has spent much of the past 24 hours – since the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a parting of ways with the South Africa-born batsman – criticising management figures on Twitter.

There has been no response from England's former team director Andy Flower or skipper Cook, neither of whom has a Twitter account, despite much baiting in recent times from Morgan.

Prior, however, refused to stay silent, reacting at length, in six consecutive tweets, to Morgan's account of what he believes the wicketkeeper said in a team meeting during England's Ashes whitewash in Australia this winter.

"I don't do this PR, spinning media rubbish but I refuse to be attacked by a bloke that knows very little about what goes on in the England set-up – apart from rumour, gossip and hearsay from certain individuals (most of whom I'd take with a pinch of salt!!)," Prior tweeted.

"Maybe I was recorded or 'hacked' – but if not I'd like to see where these words I apparently said have come from?"

Morgan insists Prior was critical of Flower, when speaking to team-mates, and "stabbed (Pietersen) in the back".

"I'm not the kind of person to divulge what is said in team meetings but all I will say is that Flower, Cook and the rest of my team mates know exactly what I said & the way in which it was meant!" said Prior.