Andrew Strauss has said that Kevin Pietersen's reconciliation with England during next month's Test series in India will be "difficult" and "tough". In an exclusive interview with the Guardian the recently retired England captain warned that, if dressing room conflict lingers, "a real problem" will ensue.
Strauss retired in August after England were defeated 2-0 by South Africa in a fraught Test series which will be remembered most for the damaging text messages Pietersen sent to the opposition. Amid allegations that he had undermined Strauss in his texts, Pietersen was dropped by England. Considering Pietersen's subsequent recall to the squad and the chances of a lasting reconciliation between the batsman and his team-mates in India, Strauss said: "It will be difficult. One of the problems is that there are two separate sections. One is going on in meeting rooms between KP and the players and on the other side is this media intrigue. From [the coach] Andy Flower's point of view, they need to get that first part right. If everyone is happy in the dressing room they will play well. But if it's not resolved then it is a problem. I honestly think it's a real problem.
"If they can make it work, then obviously England will be a better side with KP in it because he's an outstanding player. But if, behind the scenes, things are difficult and resentment is harboured and, if KP is not fully committed to England, there are going to be problems. But it's in everyone's interests to make it work."
Asked if he believes that the rift will be healed, Strauss offered a cautious response. "It's an interesting point. Maybe it actually makes it easier for the team that I'm not there because some of it was directed to me. It would have been harder if I'd stayed. I think that it can be [healed]. But everyone has to desperately want it to happen and they all need to let bygones be bygones and not have any grudges and bitterness. Everyone has to want to move forward for the right reasons. That's the question mark and so it's hard for me to tell. But it saddens me that we've been through this – after all the hard work we put in as a group for three-and-a-half years. We all genuinely believed in this special bond and chemistry we had. Unfortunately we've slipped from there and the guys are going to need to recover that. It's going to be tough."
Strauss also revealed that he did not include Pietersen on the list of England players to whom he wrote to explain his decision to step down as England captain. "I didn't write to KP, actually," Strauss said. "But the main reason was that I wrote all those letters so they could be taken down to the Rose Bowl where the guys were playing [in a one-day international.] Obviously I texted KP. That was a strange time for the two of us. A lot had happened and during that period we were quite estranged from each other.
"Kevin has since come up to me and apologised for it and I respect that. He seemed contrite and I think he was sincere. Looking back I think it was wrong some of our players were following that [spoof KP Genius] Twitter account. But I still don't think it's a justification for what Kevin did."
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image: © Graham Dean