The deconstruction of English cricket continues with the claim that team director Andy Flower's personal future hinges on the axing of Kevin Pietersen, according to Mike Selvey of The Guardian.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 7:40 a.m. GMT
Flower has quickly moved to deny the report, stating the following through Sky Sports:
Following speculation in the media today I feel it necessary to reiterate much of what I said in my recent press conference.
I repeat that neither I nor the wider ECB leadership group have made any decisions as to the future involvement of any individuals in the playing group or in the support staff.
The reports that I have issued an ultimatum of some description to the ECB are totally inaccurate.
---End of Update---
Selvey had reported that, despite Flower being given the backing of his employers for the foreseeable future, it is the presence of Pietersen that is key to whether he stays on in his role.
The future of the maverick cricketer will be decided by England's new team of selectors, as Paul Downton takes over from Hugh Morris, who has moved back to his old county Glamorgan to take up the chief executive's role.
It is thought that Flower sees Pietersen as a major obstacle in reviving England's fortunes, per Selvey's report. Flower is said to believe the player is a troublesome member of the squad, and that he is willing to walk away if Pietersen is retained.
Pietersen himself has reiterated his desire to continue playing at the highest level, and has targeted being involved in the next Ashes series in 2015, as reported by ESPNCricinfo:
The England man took to Twitter to proclaim:
The tension in the England team has been evident during the current tour of Australia, with the entire squad showing little resistance in their defence of the urn. Pietersen himself posted only 294 runs during the whole series, at a paltry average of 29.40, per ESPNCricinfo.
If Flower really sees Pietersen as a hugely negative influence, then it is time for the batsman to go. Flower's influence over the entire team has to be greater than that of a solitary player.
However, if the selectors opt to retain the player, it will only serve to undermine England's team director, who has been largely responsible for past glories.
It cannot be denied that Pietersen on top form is unplayable, and a weapon that England need. If he can recapture the magic that he has displayed on so many occasions, to prematurely end his involvement would be a huge waste.
One of the core issues surrounding Pietersen is that of his injuries. A knee problem hindered his pre-Ashes buildup, and the player has struggled after many years of gruelling activity for his country.
Whether he is capable of staying fit, and improving his form, is a question only those closest to him can answer, and Flower's knowledge of his potency and excellence is unrivalled.
The ideal scenario for England is that both individuals work together to drag the country out of its current rut. But if one has to go, it should be Pietersen.