London: England coach Andy Flower insists Kevin Pietersen's infatuation with the Indian Premier League (IPL) played a significant role in the collapse of his international career. Pietersen's England future looks bleak after his relationship with Flower and English captain Andrew Strauss was shattered by the flamboyant batsman's controversial actions over the last few months.
The 32-year-old has been cast into exile after sending text messages to South African players that allegedly contained criticism of Flower and Strauss during England's recent Test series against the Proteas. But Flower believes Pietersen, dropped for the third Test and left out of England's Twenty20 World Cup squad, stopped focusing on international action after his lucrative spell playing domestic cricket in India.
Pietersen announced his shock retirement from limited overs internationals earlier this year in a move that would allow him more scope to play with his high-profile IPL franchise the Delhi Daredevils. He subsequently backtracked on playing a full IPL tournament next year in a YouTube video, where he re-affirmed his commitment to representing England in all three formats.
But Flower is certain Pietersen's availability for the cash-rich tournament is at the heart of the current problems and, with little hope of an IPL window being introduced to avoid clashes with England matches, that could herald the end of the batsman's international career. "I think it's fair to say that his issues over being available for the entire IPL have changed his attitude," Flower said. "I think that was the catalyst for a lot of the stuff. The IPL and the international fixtures in England are an area of conflict. And it will continue to be an area of conflict in the future. It would be better if there was a very clear window prior to our international season starting. But it doesn't look like that is an issue that is going to be sorted out in the future, so it may well recur."
England's central contracts for their key players will be decided next month but Flower does not expect any resolution on the Pietersen matter to have been concluded before then. That would likely cast further doubt over the South Africa-born batsman's future, although Flower was reluctant to be drawn on the consequences it might have on Pietersen's contract negotiations. "I don't think it would be fair for me to say that. Regardless of central contracts, I wouldn't like to put a time frame on it because that might be unrealistic," he said. "To resolve certain issues of trust and mutual respect, it might take longer than that."