Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, has spoken of the "impossible situation" that English cricket faced after Kevin Pietersen's call for the sacking of the national coach, Peter Moores. However, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Clarke insists that by acting swiftly and decisively to bring an end to the row, the team's prospects for 2009 have been enhanced.
Speaking in the aftermath of a tumultuous week, in which both captain and coach were relieved of their posts, Clarke stopped short of criticising Pietersen, a player whose well-being will be pivotal to England's prospects in both the ICC World Twenty20 and the Ashes. But he made it clear that his "back me or sack me" ultimatum had left the board with no choice. To accede to Pietersen's wishes would have set a dangerous precedent for player power, and undermined the management structure of the ECB.
"The ECB was faced with an impossible situation and it raised issues that had very serious implications for the game," Clarke said. "It has been a very difficult time and when the issue arose it was obvious it was going to be horrendously problematic, but a lot of people have behaved with great dignity throughout, not least Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores."
Even though the timing of the conflict left England's preparations for next week's tour of the Caribbean in chaos, Clarke believes that the placatory tones that have been voiced in the past few days will stand the side in good stead. "The matter has been dealt with decisively and our focus is now on the future," he said. "Andrew Strauss is the captain and will be a fine leader, and it is very encouraging to see the players stressing their commitment to pull together under his leadership.
"I am delighted that Kevin has reiterated his desire to play for England and actually I think he has handled the whole matter with great dignity. I am a great admirer of his as a player and I look forward to him scoring 10,000 Test match runs and goodness knows how many in one-day internationals."
Two days before the team departs for the Caribbean on January 21, Clarke will know for sure whether he has any challengers as ECB chairman, when the nominations for the forthcoming election close. Few chairmen in the ECB's history have ruffled as many feathers or faced as many challenges as Clarke, and though the Pietersen saga was an embarrassment that came hot on the heels of November's ill-starred Stanford Series, the recent thawing of relations with India is arguably an achievement that outweighs both events.
"When you have the two most economically important nations working together that can only be a good thing," said Clarke, whose dialogue with India also helped to dilute the adverse influence that Zimbabwe had been having on English cricket. "When I look back on my original election Zimbabwe was a huge issue for the whole game," he said. "It isn't any more. I feel that is a major step forward. As a result we have built a really strong relationship with the government."