Andrew Strauss hopes England's Ashes campaign will not suffer any ongoing disruption from the extraordinary chain of events that saw star batsman Kevin Pietersen briefly dropped from the side last season. Pietersen was axed from the England side when, after having made a brilliant hundred against his native South Africa at Headingley, it was alleged he has sent derogatory text messages, some said to be about then Test captain Strauss, to Proteas players.
Strauss retired from cricket after England's series loss to South Africa but insisted his decision had nothing to do with the Pietersen controversy. Pietersen had to undergo a period of "reintegration" before playing a major role in England's series win in India before Christmas although a knee injury that forced him out of the tour of New Zealand in March kept him on the sidelines until last week.
But Pietersen, 33 on Thursday, returned to action with a brilliant 177 for Surrey against Yorkshire last week, prompting hopes he will be fit in time for next month's first Test against Australia in Nottingham. He is due to return to England service in Thursday's second and final Twenty20 international against New Zealand at The Oval. While Strauss doesn't doubt Pietersen's talents he is in no doubt of the need of a settled dressing room, especially given the upheaval Australia have suffered lately, culminating in the sacking of coach Mickey Arthur just 16 days out from the Ashes.
"Kevin is one of the best players I've ever seen," Strauss told several British national newspapers at a Sky Sports promotional event. "But I don't know what's going on behind the scenes and I just hope everything in the team environment is fine. If it is fine then he should come back in straight away, no problems. "But I do think you should never just assume that everything is okay, because in my experience if the team environment is not right it will come out at some point, usually under the greatest pressure.
"I'm sure everything's fine, I've got no reason to doubt it is, but it's still a consideration people have got to make." And Strauss was convinced his former opening partner Alastair Cook, now his successor as England captain, and coach Andy Flower would have no trouble leading the team off the field as well as on it. "When you're managing a team the key is to find where those boundaries are, where you're prepared to let people go, to what extent you're allowing them to be a free spirit because ultimately it's all got to be in the greater cause, which is making sure the team wins cricket games," Strauss said. "That's a challenge for any leadership team and Andy Flower has been there long enough, Alastair Cook knows his mind pretty well and I'm sure they've got those boundaries in place."