London: The saga of Kevin Pietersen's extraordinary exit from the international arena took a fresh twist Friday when the England and Wales Cricket Board and its managing director, Paul Downton, apologised for criticism of the batsman made by the former England wicketkeeper.
Downton appeared on BBC Radio's Test Match Special programme on May 22 and during the course of a wide-ranging interview went into details about England's controversial decision to ditch former captain Pietersen following the team's 5-0 Ashes series loss in Australia.
ECB chief Downton said the 33-year-old appeared "disinterested" and "distracted" in the fifth Test in Sydney, and added he was unable to find anyone within the England squad who wanted South Africa-born Pietersen to remain in the team.
An angry Pietersen responded by labelling Downton's remarks "wholly untrue".
And having gone to the trouble of negotiating an exit with Pietersen, the ECB was embarrassingly forced to admit that some of Downton's comments were "in breach of the settlement agreement" made with the batsman when his England central contract was terminated.
"On May 22 during an interview on BBC Test Match Special, Paul Downton of the ECB made a series of comments about Kevin Pietersen with which Kevin takes issue, including the comments he made regarding his perception of Kevin's attitude during the Sydney Test on last winter's Ashes tour," said an ECB statement issued late Friday.
"Some of those comments were made in breach of a settlement agreement between the ECB and Kevin Pietersen which was concluded at the time Kevin's central contract was terminated earlier this year.
"Paul Downton and the ECB both apologise to Kevin Pietersen for those comments made that were in breach of the settlement agreement and have confirmed that they will abide by its terms moving forward."
Until recently, the ECB's explanations for effectively ending the international career of Pietersen, England's leading run-scorer across all formats, had contained only limited detail.
But by focusing on Pietersen's attitude, Downton had appeared to clarify the situation.
However, the tome of the ECB statement suggested they and Downton were apologising for his remarks being broadcast in public rather than the points behind them.
Pietersen responded to Downton's radio interview by saying: "The suggestion that I was uninterested during the winter Ashes series against Australia is wholly untrue.
"Although I was having injections in my knee, which inhibited my mobility and thus my ability to field close to the wicket, I was fully motivated to play for England and whilst I accept that the series as a whole fell well below my own personal standards, I finished the series as the (England) top scorer.
"I did, and continue to have a good relationship with most of the England players."
Pietersen is still on the books of Surrey but his planned return to action for the Oval-based county on Friday in a Twenty20 fixture against Middlesex was scuppered by a finger injury.