In hindsight, Strauss feels that he could have handled the situation involving the unpredictable yet gifted Pietersen in a better manner. At the same time, he maintained that Pietersen’s decision to prefer the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) over Test cricket was something he couldn’t allow. Strauss and Pietersen’s differing views on the issue snowballed into a major controversy.
"I always had sympathy with KP over the IPL. I understood what a big event it was with all the best players playing there together and huge amounts of money on the table as well," " Strauss said on a Sky Sports podcast. In fact, after Strauss was appointed ECB's 'Director of Cricket' he created a window for England players to play IPL, something Pietersen was in favour of.
"Long term my view was that we had to find a window for the IPL. I told the ECB we couldn't compete against each other as it is going to create massive issues within our team. But I thought it was incredibly dangerous to allow players to miss Test cricket to play in the IPL. The message you'd be sending and the precedent you'd be setting is that the IPL is more important than Test cricket," Strauss explained trying to balance out the situation.
The ex-England also revealed that he repeatedly tried to convince Pietersen over the importance of Test cricket. "I was saying to KP at the time, 'listen, mate, this is the situation. You can't opt in or out of international cricket. You've got obligations to England and hopefully there are gaps where you can play in the IPL as well'," Strauss further stated in the podcast.
Pietersen was no stranger to controversies in an international career that had massive highs and equally big lows. In 2012 during the Test series against South Africa, he sent text messages to the opposition players allegedly insulting Strauss. Later, in his autobiography, he criticised Strauss and seniors like Matt Prior and Stuart Broad for not supporting him.
Strauss admitted that it was tough dealing with KP because he wasn’t exactly a team man, but also added that he should have given him more space. "I think instead I just let KP be KP. In retrospect that was a mistake and might have sowed the seeds for what was to come down the track," Strauss said.
"I don't think he would have been in the engine-room of the team in that sense but I've always felt a good team environment embraces difference and finds a space for everyone. I think we did that for large periods of time but possibly through neglect, KP became increasingly isolated," the ex-skipper added.
"Often KP wanted to be the guy who was slightly separate from the team. On any given day it didn't feel like an issue but over time it became an issue.Would I do things massively differently if I had my time again? Probably not. The worst thing you can do for players like KP is to straitjacket them and say 'you have to abide by x, y and z. You can't go and play in a flamboyant way, you have to grind it out like Jonathan Trott'.
"Effectively you'd be asking him to be someone he's not, so you had to cut him some slack and allow him to be himself," Strauss further explained.
"At times, though, what worked for KP almost undermined what the team was trying to do. It felt like there were two completely separate agendas there and that became a problem for me, the rest of the team and [then head coach] Andy Flower.
"We were all tired, emotional and had spent so much time in each other's pockets. Probably if we had a bit more space to think clearly it might not have got to that stage and we might have managed it better," the former cricketer who played exactly 100 Tests, and was knighted earlier this year, said upon further reflection.
--By A Cricket Correspondent