Cook backed Pietersen axe

Congleton Guardian: Alastair Cook, pictured, backs the "brave call" to proceed without batsman Kevin Pietersen Alastair Cook, pictured, backs the "brave call" to proceed without batsman Kevin Pietersen

Alastair Cook has given his captain's seal of approval for England's "brave call" to axe record runscorer Kevin Pietersen.

Cook, speaking for the first time since the England and Wales Cricket Board called time on Pietersen's international career, left little room for any residual doubt about his own role in the process.

The Test and one-day international captain confesses his frustration at not being able to speak freely about the reasons for the parting of ways after last winter's Ashes whitewash, advising patience before the full story is told "soon".

The ECB made it clear, in a statement shortly after Pietersen's enforced international retirement in February, that the defence of issues such as "trust" and "team ethics" underpinned their decision.

England have gone on in Pietersen's absence to conclude their winter of discontent with a lacklustre ICC World Twenty20 campaign, ending in an embarrassing dead-rubber defeat against minnows Holland on Monday.

Cook played no part in that either, because he is not currently in England's team in the shortest format.

The opener is due to return in next month's ODI against Scotland in Aberdeen, by which time England will have a new head coach in place following Andy Flower's resignation as team director in January.

Cook does not yet know therefore whether he will be working alongside limited-overs coach Ashley Giles - in an enhanced role - or a clutch of other contenders, all of whom will be interviewed for the job this month.

He has no qualms at all, however, about the decision to omit Pietersen from England's new era.

"It was a brave call which took guts and consideration," said Cook.

"You do have to say at some point, 'This is the way we're going to do it moving forward.'"

Various versions of events have been put forward about the apparent breakdown of Pietersen's working relationship with management at the start of this year, a repeat of history twice over following the South Africa-born batsman's power struggle with former coach Peter Moores in 2008 and his well-documented disagreements with Flower and then captain Andrew Strauss in 2012.

It was Strauss' successor Cook who reportedly helped to facilitate Pietersen's reintegration two years ago.

But this time, he said: "We all know how important team culture and team unity is.

"It was obviously a very big and important decision.

"I know things will become clearer in a little bit of time.

"I know it is frustrating. It is frustrating for me, because I have not totally been able to tell my side of the story. People just have to be a little bit patient."

The perception is that ECB are prevented, legally, from divulging further details yet.

"Everyone will say I'm sitting on the fence, but there are a number of reasons which will become clearer soon," Cook added.

"Everyone is going to keep asking that question until we give the answers - but at the moment we just can't."

Giles remains favourite, meanwhile, to become head coach - despite the Dutch debacle on his watch - and Cook is clearly an influential fan.

"Gilo has had a tough winter - we've all had a tough winter.

"He's a very, very good coach. He's a fantastic coach and a very good man as well. There are a lot of decisions to be made over the next couple of weeks by the hierarchy of the ECB - and important decisions as well."

Moores, currently in charge of Lancashire, and Nottinghamshire's Mick Newell are among other feasible candidates.

"It is an important relationship, and you do have an input," said Cook.

"The final decision is with the board, that is their job."

Whoever is chosen, Cook is still optimistic about the challenges ahead for England after their 18 defeats from 23 matches in 2013/14.

"It's been an incredibly tough winter, we can't hide away from that.

"(But) there are a huge number of reasons to be optimistic. It will take time and hard work to turn it around.

"It took us three or four years to become the top-ranked Test side in the world under Flower and Strauss after we were bowled out for 51 in Jamaica.

"It is going to take time. It's going to take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get there.

"I'm very privileged to be a part of that and hope we can make the difference."

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