Kevin Pietersen’s international career is over after nine turbulent years.
England’s management deciding unanimously that their relationship with the 33-year-old former Hampshire batsman had run its course.
With squads to be named for the forthcoming tour of the West Indies and the World Twenty20 tomorrow, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was forced to confront the thorny issue of Pietersen’s future earlier than it might have liked.
And the verdict – announced by new managing director Paul Downton – was a decisive one.
Pietersen, who played seven first-class fixtures and scored 524 runs for Hampshire between 2005-08, was told he would not be picked for the next two trips and no leeway was left for a change of heart.
Instead, Downton delivered a eulogy to Pietersen’s England career and, in the process, a definitive end to it.
Whoever takes over from the departed Andy Flower as team director will now begin the job without England’s star batsman but also relieved of the job’s most persistent headache.
Flower, whose relationship with Pietersen reportedly reached breaking point during the 5-0 Ashes whitewash this winter, was among those who had his say on the subject, along with one-day coach Ashley Giles, captain Alastair Cook and national selector James Whitaker.
But Downton, who has been reviewing England’s cricket operations for over a month despite formally starting only a matter of days ago, led the process that resulted in Pietersen’s demise and will take any plaudits or brickbats that come with it.
Downton’s words, while generous in terms of Pietersen’s contribution over the years, also included a pointed reference to rebuilding “not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy” – a clear reference to the batsman’s perceived shortcomings around the group.
The player himself has accepted his England days are over, after 104 Tests, 136 one-day internationals, 37 T20 internationals and four Ashes victories, but spoke mournfully of the decision.
‘Playing cricket for my country has been an honour,’ said Pietersen, who also played 19 one-day matches for Hampshire, taking his overall run tally for the county to 1,233.
‘Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me forever.
‘Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I’m also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years.
‘I feel extremely fortunate to have played at a time of great success for England cricket alongside some of the best cricketers the country has ever produced.
‘I want to thank everyone for their fantastic support and I wish the team the very best of success going forward.
‘I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer.
‘I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won’t be for England.’
Pietersen’s culling caps a winter of discontent for England, who have seen Flower resign, premier spinner Graeme Swann retire and senior batsman Jonathan Trott depart the scene with a stress-related illness.
But Pietersen has been around longer than all of them, bursting on to the Test arena in the memorable Ashes summer of 2005 and ending his career as the country’s highest scorer across all formats.
In Test terms, he sits fourth on the all-time list with 8,181 runs – behind only Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and David Gower – and second only to Cook on the centurions list with 23.
Downton said: ‘Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country’s leading run-scorer in international cricket demonstrates.
‘However, everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long-term planning after the Australia tour.
‘Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy.
‘England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin, who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill.
‘This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career.’
The News understands legal negotiations between Pietersen’s representatives and ECB lawyers are still ongoing, with his current central contract running until the end of September.
The likeliest outcome is Pietersen will be freed to pursue his Twenty20 goals, starting with a full season in this year’s Indian Premier League.
He has long held ambitions to play a full part in the lucrative competition – an underpinning factor in much of his problems with the ECB – and should now be hot property at the forthcoming player auction.
With a low-key lap of honour around the county circuit in Surrey’s colours unlikely to appeal, Pietersen may even have played for the last time in this country.
The NatWest t20 Blast is now played over the course of a full season, rather than a short burst, and other T20 tournaments across the globe may now be of greater appeal.
Pietersen’s undoubted talent on the pitch is matched only by his ability to attract enmity off it.
He left his native South Africa with no love lost on either side and departed both Nottinghamshire and Hampshire under a cloud.
Pietersen stated a need to be closer to his London home as a reason for leaving the latter in 2008.
But it is his rollercoaster ride with his adopted country that created most intrigue.
He was a surprising appointment as England captain in August 2008 but his reign lasted only five months when an attempt to oust then coach Peter Moores resulted in both men losing their jobs, though Pietersen retained his place in the team.
He came even closer to being exiled in the summer of 2012.
At the end of the Headingley Test against South Africa he gave an unforgettable press conference where he claimed ‘it’s not easy being me in that dressing room’.
Information then leaked that he had sent what were later termed ‘provocative’ text messages to members of the Proteas side – reportedly about his captain Andrew Strauss.
Pietersen was duly dropped for the final Test of the summer and, when Strauss’ successor Cook lobbied for his return, was asked to undergo a ‘reintegration’ period.
He played a leading role in the historic series win in India later that year and, last summer, added a fourth Ashes success to a CV that also included wins in 2005, 2009 and 2010-11.
But his age and previous bust-ups left his position weaker than ever and a modest return with the bat this winter, coupled with yet more reports of internal discord, saw the curtain fall.