Kevin Pietersen admitted to being "disappointed" after being left out of England's Test squad to tour India later this year. The delayed announcement came on Tuesday – as Pietersen was making his debut as a television pundit on the opening day of the World Twenty20 – with the England selectors preferring to give opportunities to Yorkshire's Joe Root and Somerset's Nick Compton in the 16-man squad for the four-Test series.
"Kevin Pietersen is naturally disappointed about today's decision, having gone to great lengths to reach a reconciliation with the ECB," said a statement issued on his behalf by Mission Sports Management, his sports agency.
He did manage to hide that disappointment well as the cameras zoomed in on him. There he was, sandwiched between Sourav Ganguly and Wasim Akram in the obligatory suit, collar and tie. And he smiled even when Ganguly referred to his absence from the England squad. "As Indians, we don't mind," said Ganguly. "It could be 4-0 without KP".
Pietersen's statement, though, went to great lengths to point out how he has tried to mend his relationship with the England hierarchy in an effort to resume his international career. His last game for England was the second Test against South Africa last month where he scored 149 – an innings described by many as his best ever.
"Pietersen has met with – and apologised to – Andrew Strauss," the statement added. "He has also met with Alastair Cook to stress his commitment to England and met with ECB board members, including face-to-face meetings with Hugh Morris, David Collier and Andy Flower, prior to his departure to Sri Lanka.
"At all times Pietersen had wished his dealings with the ECB to remain private so as not to inflame an already difficult situation. His recent silence was not an admission of any wrongdoing; he wanted to explain and apologise to the ECB for the messages exchanged with members of the South African team.
"He has also made absolutely clear both to the ECB and the England team that – despite unsubstantiated allegations to the contrary and repeated media speculation – he did not offer any tactical advice to the South Africans. Pietersen remains available for England."
Unfortunately for him and for those who like to see the best players competing at the highest levels,, England do not wish to have him. It is not absolutely clear who has made that decision. Usually the buck stops with the national selector but that obviously was not the case with Geoff Miller.
"We are just the selectors, they let us know it [the issue with Pietersen] hasn't been resolved," said Miller. "It is disappointing; he is a world-class player but it is about a team game. You want to take your best players but he wasn't available. We have to move on with other players."
Miller tried to offer some consolation, but his words were hardly reassuring. Asked whether Pietersen has a future in the national setup, he said: "He might do, we will wait and see. He could do, it depends on when those issues are resolved. He is one of the best players in the world and he has shown that on many an occasion. It is not just about an individual in a changing room, it is about a team ethic and unity."
So maybe Pietersen had better continue to brush up on his broadcasting skills. At the start of ESPN's Cricket Extra they showed a sequence of Pietersen belting an array of bowlers in the last World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, before celebrating England's triumph in the final. Uncomfortable viewing before Pietersen declared to the camera with as much conviction as he could muster: "It's a pleasure to be here. I would love to be playing. But this is the next best thing." Whereupon the director cut to Dermot Reeve doing some Peter Snow-on-election-night impressions.
Pietersen would not criticise anyone on his debut broadcast. Indeed the superlatives flowed especially when he was discussing Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. England's T20 aspirations or their Test squad were never a topic for conversation, though Pietersen did include Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann in his top 10 T20 cricketers. His TV performance was fine, polished even, but it remains a far more uplifting experience watching him bat.
Where might that happen again?The next squad to be picked by Miller – if we leave aside two T20 matches at the fag end of Test tour to India – is for the One-Day Internationals in that country and then in New Zealand in January. Then there are two Test series against the Kiwis away and home, for which England may not need Pietersen to prevail, followed by the Ashes in England.
A glimpse of his new TV colleague, Tony Greig, down in Hambantota, prompted the thought that Pietersen might have to "grovel" some more to get back in favour. But how long can he wait? He might just prefer to head off into the T20 jungle, which is curiously the experience of his replacement as England's No3.
Luke Wright has already played T20 cricket at the IPL, in the Big Bash in Australia, and in South Africa, always with the appropriate sanctions from Sussex and England. Pietersen may end up doing that of his own accord. This left us none the wiser about that. Both sides remained cagey about their future plans. Apparently this is partly because lawyers are now involved and whenever lawyers are involved in a dispute, it is usually a terrible mess.
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image: © Steve Hodgson