Strauss said Pietersen had been dropped for the third Test against South Africa at Lord's because of "a broader issue about trust and mutual respect" than the specific offence of undermining his captain in texts sent to members of the opposition.
England's Test captain left no doubt that those issues could not be resolved before next week at the earliest and refused even to give an unconditional welcome to the prospect of Pietersen returning to the team. He is understood to want to know the precise content of the text messages.
"I would like Kevin to play for England again but only if we resolve the issues that we need to resolve," Strauss said. That must make Pietersen's inclusion in the 15-man squad to defend England's world Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next month more unlikely than ever. The squad is due to be named on Saturday, in the middle of the Test.
"It's a step forward, it's a step in the right direction," said Strauss, who admitted he felt "let down" by Pietersen's behaviour. "But this issue hasn't just been about the text messages. There's been a bit more of a broader issue about trust and mutual respect and that issue I'm very keen to resolve. But it's not going to be resolved overnight. If we're going to resolve those issues, we need to do it face to face away from the media spotlight and away from PR companies and press releases. That's not helping any of us at this stage. For the next five or six days my focus has got to be on the game of cricket that we're playing this week."
Pietersen's apology, which followed days of negotiations, had been published in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement less than an hour before Strauss fulfilled his pre-match media commitments. "I did send what you might call provocative texts to my close friends in the SA team," Pietersen was quoted as saying, having refused to make such an admission when initially requested to do so last Friday, before England selected their team for Lord's."The texts were meant as banter between close friends. I need to rein myself in sometimes. I apologise to Straussy and the team for the inappropriate remarks at the press conference [after the second Test at Headingley] and for the texts. I truly didn't mean to cause upset or tension, particularly with important games at stake."
But Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket who has led the attempts to secure Pietersen's apology, responded: "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 of purpose that has served us so well in recent years. Critically, those discussions should take place behind closed doors, rather than in the media spotlight. A successful conclusion to this process is in everyone's best interests and is required for Kevin Pietersen's potential selection in all forms of the game to be considered."
South Africa's captain Graeme Smith, who will equal Allan Border's Test record by leading his country for the 93rd time, expressed his surprise that what he described as "friendly chat" between Pietersen and a couple of his compatriots – who the tourists still refuse to name – had caused such a storm. "I find it quite amazing it's still going on," said Smith, who denied that his team had been involved in putting the texts into the public domain.
"We've stayed away from the rubbish," he added. "I'm amazed how this story got out in the first place." He did not offer any suggestions as to how it had.
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image: © Gareth Williams