This just in from the ECB – an official statement from its new chairman, Colin Graves, on his first day in the role.
I would like to start my stewardship of the ECB looking forward to next week’s Investec Test series against New Zealand and the Ashes later in the summer.
But first there’s another point I want to address.
Clearly, the question of whether Kevin Pietersen will play for England again has been a debate for media and cricket fans alike.
I understand why people feel it’s important. So I’ll tell you what I said to the First Class County Chairmen, at yesterday’s AGM, and our people across the ECB this morning, on my first full day as Chairman.
In the past few days my integrity has been called into question, something I can’t accept. Throughout my business career and my years at Yorkshire, integrity has been my watchword. It governs everything I do and is an important part of what I bring to the ECB.
So it saddens me that what was a private conversation with Kevin in March has been used to do just that.
Back then, when we talked on the phone, Kevin asked if I thought his England career had ended in the right manner following the last Ashes series in Australia. I agreed that nobody particularly emerged with much credit from the whole episode, particularly given his achievements for England.
Kevin felt he had a lot to offer and was interested in a dialogue with the ECB, sorting things out and working together. He would love to play for England again but he wanted to contribute, whether as a player or not.
I didn’t make any promises. There were no guarantees that if he chose to exit his IPL contract, play County cricket and score runs he would be selected for England. And I said he should make any decision on his future on that basis.
I can see something has been misunderstood around the conversation and in the following debate – and perhaps how that happened.
What I did stress was that when I took over as chairman I would back those people whose job it was to take decisions on team selection. I stand by that.
Ahead of a big, busy summer of cricket, a clear decision needed to be taken. Given the history and the book, the simple fact is that bridges have still not been rebuilt and trust needs to be restored.
That takes time – as Andrew Strauss made clear this week.
Kevin was told on Monday and I completely support the decision that was taken. He may not have liked what he heard but it allowed him to look at his opportunities.
Despite everything, he can work with us to re-build the relationship and make a further contribution to English cricket. It was important he knew where he stood.
Of course, I would like us to move forward and concentrate on the important matter of winning cricket matches. I don’t want to add any more or go deeper into private conversations.
I want to look to the future. I’m excited by the England team that is evolving and I look forward to giving them my full support this week.
Despite his protestations, Graves does not seem to deny telling Pietersen that he would be eligible for selection. He says he gave “no guarantees that if he chose to exit his IPL contract, play County cricket and score runs he would be selected”.
I had two phone conversations with Colin Graves and he was crystal clear in saying I had to get a county, score runs and that there was a clean slate. He said that when he comes in as chairman he wants the best players playing for England. He told me that on the phone in two separate conversations. He also repeated it to national newspapers.
Graves’s attempts to clarify the situation are unlikely to clear anything up. He either offered Pietersen a “clean slate”, or he didn’t. Either Pietersen is fibbing (or mistaken) or Graves is being economical with the truth.