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KP: batting genius or selfish maverick? England end Pietersen's international career

Kevin Pietersen's international career is over after nine turbulent years, with England's management deciding unanimously that their relationship with the 33-year-old had run its course.

With squads to be named for the forthcoming tour of West Indies and the World Twenty20 on Thursday, the England and Wales Cricket Board was forced to confront the thorny issue of Pietersen's future earlier than it might have liked, and the verdict - announced by new managing director Paul Downton - was a decisive one.

Pietersen was told he would not be picked for the next two trips and no leeway was left for a change of heart; instead, Downton delivered a eulogy to the star batsman's England career and, in the process, a definitive end to it.

Whoever takes over from the departed Andy Flower as team director will now begin the job robbed of one of England's best ever batsman, but also relieved of the job's most persistent headache.

Flower, whose relationship with Pietersen reportedly reached breaking point during the 5-0 Ashes whitewash this winter, was among those who had his say on the subject, along with one-day coach Ashley Giles, captain Alastair Cook and national selector James Whitaker.

But Downton, who has been reviewing England's cricket operations for over a month despite formally starting only a matter of days ago, led the process that resulted in Pietersen's demise and will take any plaudits or brickbats that come with it.

Downton's words, while generous in terms of Pietersen's contribution, also included a pointed reference to rebuilding "not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy" - a clear reference to the batsman's perceived shortcomings around the group.

The player himself has accepted his England days are over, after 104 Tests, 136 one-day internationals, 37 T20 internationals and four Ashes victories, but spoke mournfully of the decision.

"Playing cricket for my country has been an honour. Every time I pulled on the England shirt was a moment of huge pride for me and that is something that will live with me forever," he said.

"Although I am obviously very sad the incredible journey has come to an end, I'm also hugely proud of what we, as a team, have achieved over the past nine years.

"I feel extremely fortunate to have played at a time of great success for England cricket alongside some of the best cricketers the country has ever produced.

"I want to thank everyone for their fantastic support and I wish the team the very best of success going forward.

"I believe I have a great deal still to give as a cricketer. I will continue to play but deeply regret that it won't be for England."

Pietersen's culling caps a winter of discontent for England, who have seen Flower resign, premier spinner Graeme Swann retire and senior batsman Jonathan Trott depart the scene with a stress-related illness.

Passing sentence on a man who will surely go down as an England great, Downton said: "Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country's leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates.

"England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill.

"This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career."

The end of Kevin Pietersen's England career is overdue or premature, a management failure or vindication - depending which expert pundit you listen to.

After the England and Wales Cricket Board announced Pietersen's omission from future plans, a succession of former national captains encapsulated the divided opinion which has surrounded the South Africa-born batsman throughout his near 10-year international career.

Michael Vaughan believes England have, ultimately, been unable to effectively man-manage their gifted "maverick"; Nasser Hussain concludes the ECB have simply decided "enough is enough".

Alec Stewart finds the sacrifice of a "box-office cricketer" both "unfair and unjust", and Geoff Boycott insists England captain Alastair Cook and former team director Andy Flower must shoulder some responsibility for Pietersen's departure.

Some of the most strident support for the decision came from former England bowler Bob Willis, who praised the decisiveness of new ECB managing director Paul Downton

"Full marks to Paul Downton - he's put his stamp of authority on the job," Willis told Sky Sports News.

"He only really started yesterday officially in the job ... it's a dramatic decision and one that really says England have got to move on.

"Let's be honest - Pietersen has disrupted every single dressing-room he's been in.

"Everyone was toeing the party line in front of the cameras about his relationship with Andy Flower and the rest of the team, but clearly there had been problems on the Australian tour.

"Very bravely, Paul Downton and ... a unanimous decision by the rest of the England management [means] it's time to move on. A line in the sand has been drawn.

"Captains and team directors have all suffered because of Pietersen's behaviour.

"No man is bigger than the game, and England have decided Kevin Pietersen got too big for his boots."

Vaughan, meanwhile, acknowledged he was privileged to captain Pietersen to Ashes victory in 2005, at a time when he was at his most eager to please.

The current England regime might nonetheless, according to Vaughan, have done better to harness and harmonise a cricketer described just last month by limited-overs coach Ashley Giles as a "million-pound asset".

Pietersen's farewell follows Flower's resignation last week, and a meeting at Lord's between Downton and selectors on Tuesday, as the implications of this winter's 5-0 Ashes whitewash stack up.

The lure of riches and profile in the Indian Premier League has been a development Vaughan never had to contend with in his working relationship with Pietersen.

"I got him at the best time," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "He had so much to prove, and I thought he was a joy to captain.

"I never had one ounce of problem from him - they came when the IPL came around."

Even so, Vaughan senses England should have handled Pietersen differently in recent months to ensure the ongoing success of his 'reintegration' after his previous troubles with management.

"They've distanced him - he fielded at fine-leg for the whole series ... he was going doolally. I thought he could have been managed in a better way.

"England lost 5-0 and need a huge scapegoat.

"He didn't have a great series, by his own accord, but the ECB need to explain what he does that they can't manage any longer.

"You have to be able to manage mavericks. You can't have clones around."

Vaughan believes there have been more appropriate times to shed Pietersen, if that is what England wanted.

"The chance to get rid of KP was in 2012. They had every right. The 'textgate' was disgraceful, and he knows that.

"I think it's mad to make a decision now."

Hussain reacted with mixed feelings to a "massive shock".

He told Sky Sports News: "It's a bold move when you go without one of your best players ... so there must have been things that were happening behind the scenes that Flower and Cook weren't amused with.

"It would be nice to know from the ECB, if you're going to axe one of your best players, what those things were.

"It is about man-management - however disruptive a player is, you can still try to manage most players.

"But history tells you with Kevin he hasn't really got a foot to stand on - whether it be back in Natal or Hampshire or Nottinghamshire, or Peter Moores or Andrew Strauss or Alastair Cook or Andy Flower, wherever he has been he has been a problem.

"Eventually English cricket has said 'enough is enough'.

"Some people believe in cutting out the virus and moving on; other people just say 'man-manage your best players'."

Stewart is decisively in the latter category.

"He was quite outstanding," he said of Pietersen, on Five Live.

"Many people enjoyed watching him bat - a box-office cricketer - and now sadly it has all come to an end.

"When we were winning, we didn't hear anything.

"When we lose, everyone is pointing fingers at KP - and I find that unfair and unjust."

Boycott added: "Cook and Flower haven't been able to manage him, and have to accept some responsibility.

"He was an individual ... I was one (as well).

"You can be an individual within the team but not an individual full stop - take it or leave it.

"They've taken it for long enough, and now they've said they'll leave it."

Not going to the West Indies means Pietersen will not have a showdown with the big-hitting Chris Gayle.

"No @KP24 for the Caribbean tour later this month against W.I?That's really sad for English/International cricket!Don't let the fans suffer," Gayle tweeted.

"Was really looking for the hype of having @KP24 in the caribbean, would be big tickets sales for us. #Sad - Learn to MANAGE Big Names!!"

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