Captain Cook denies guilt over Pietersen exile
Alastair Cook began the defining summer of his captaincy by insisting he was not behind Kevin Pietersen's international exile, and stressing that England have to win back a sceptical public as they face daunting challenges against New Zealand and Australia.
Cook denied that he threatened to resign if Pietersen was brought back into the international fold but refused to elaborate about the broken relationship between the two. Cook looked worn down by the issue that has dominated the narrative and has seen an England coach, Peter Moores, sacked before the Australians arrive.
The words "Kevin" and "Pietersen" did not pass Cook's lips once during a 15-minute pre-match press conference at Lord's, but Pietersen believes old history between the pair prevented his comeback.
"There was no ultimatum. I can deny that. I don't know quite where that came from," said Cook bringing the subject up himself. "But over the last 15 months the story hasn't gone away and there's nothing we can do about it as players. The decision has been made ahead of us by (Tom) Harrison and (Andrew) Strauss."
Cook cannot forgive Pietersen for the breakdown of their relationship on the last Ashes tour and the criticisms Pietersen made in his book of Andy Flower, Matt Prior and Cook.
He was given several opportunities publicly to express his feelings but would only go as far as backing up Strauss' decision and saying it was an "irrelevant question" when asked if he feels he can play with Pietersen.
"I do agree with the decision. I do. But this decision was made by those people in their new roles. We weren't consulted and we've got to start looking forward.
"The story has been put to bed by the ECB and we're now responsible - I'm responsible - for the team out on the field and the 10 other guys who are going to be with me on another fantastic occasion, with Adam Lyth making his debut, at a great ground. We've got to focus on that and all the external stuff is now focused on other people."
The series against New Zealand is vital for restoring confidence in the England team after months of upheaval. Somehow Cook has to forget all that and lift his players to beat a strong Black Caps team now boasting some of the most exciting cricketers in the world in Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
England have not lost a home Test to New Zealand, let alone a series, for 16 years and Cook does not need another unwanted piece of history on his CV before the Ashes series starts in July. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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