London: Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith was among several pundits who slammed Andrew Strauss's decision to maintain Kevin Pietersen's international exile, saying it had made English cricket a "laughing stock".
Strauss, one of several England captains whose time as skipper came to an end after a series against a Proteas side led by Smith, has recently been installed as England's director of cricket. On Tuesday, Strauss said Pietersen would remain in the international wilderness, with the South Africa-born batsman exiled from the England squad ever since the team returned from a 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia last year.
Strauss, whose final months as England captain were clouded by "provocative" texts sent by Pietersen to Proteas players, said a "massive trust issue" lay at the heart of his decision. Pietersen, 34, had been given hope of a Test return when new England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves said he would be considered if he made enough runs in county cricket.
But just hours after he scored a maiden triple century for Surrey on Monday, Strauss met with Pietersen to tell him to forget about playing for England this season. Yet Tuesday also saw Strauss announce that he'd offered Pietersen a role as an advisor to the one-day side which the star batsman had turned down. "I see the head boy is making English cricket the laughing stock again! #StraussLogic", tweeted Smith.
Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who played in the same 2005 Ashes-winning side as Pietersen, said players became more mature as they got older. "I have no agenda in this," Flintoff tweeted. "I thought If @KP24 (Pietersen) was to play again he should fight his way back in which he has, as for personality he can be high maintenance then again so was I, but you do grow up and change .
"I wish I had the chance to play in my mid 30's reckon I'd have been better!," added Flintoff, whose international career was cut short by injury. - Brilliant experience - Meanwhile Strauss defended his decision to bar Pietersen from the England side this season -- and potentially end his international career completely -- while at the same time asking him to be an advisor, saying it would be "madness" not to utilise his knowledge.
"Kevin has got brilliant experience in one-day cricket, he's played Twenty20 competitions all around the world, he's got some very strong views on one-day cricket and I think it would be madness not to try to get that information out of his head and help us form a strategy for English cricket going forwards.
The way in which the ECB have dealt with the Pietersen issue for more than a year -- a "shambles" according to former England captain Nasser Hussain -- has led many to conclude the ECB hierarchy cannot handle 'awkward' or 'maverick' players. However, the 38-year-old Strauss, often portrayed as an 'establishment' figure, said: "I don't believe he (Pietersen) is unmanageable, but I do believe you've got to have trust with each other. We don't have that."
He added: "I think there's a real bad assumption that teams have got to be like the Waltons and get on brilliantly together. That's not the case, never has been. You don't have to get on brilliantly with people, at all."