Former England captain Alastair Cook has revealed that he did not want to sack batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Pietersen was permanently dropped from England’s Test, ODI and T20I teams in early 2014, when Cook was still captain.
The South African-born batsman was labelled as ‘disinterested, distracted and disengaged’ by then-England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton.
The protracted rift continued amid speculation Pietersen would eventually return to international cricket, however, that never materialised.
Speaking to Test Match Special, Cook said: ‘It was the toughest time of my career and there’s no doubt that it affected my batting. The day when Straussy [Andrew Strauss] came out and said Kevin wasn’t going to play for us anymore, that was a massive weight off my shoulders.
‘I was involved in the original decision, but the England captain doesn’t have the final say on hiring and firing. I agreed with it, but I said “why don’t we give him some time off, we can go away and maybe KP can come back later on”.
‘Downton wanted clarity and a clean break, because people would always be asking when is Pietersen coming back. You had to back his decision because that’s what his job was.
The England skipper, who will retire from international cricket next week, added: ‘The fallout was pretty nasty and I don’t think the ECB handled it well or appreciated how social media worked back then. I bore a lot of the brunt of it, but I suppose that’s what being captain is.
‘I would refute anyone saying that I was the one that chucked Pietersen down the stairs, but I was involved in the decision and I believed it was right at that time. What could have happened a year later, I don’t know.’
This week’s final Test of a five-match series against India, which England lead three-one, will be Cook’s 161st and last. He led the side in 59 Tests.
‘Looking back, I can safely say all the decisions I made were done for the best of the England cricket team at that time. On that one, there were a lot of other people, way above my head, also involved in it. I felt like I was being left alone as the captain.
‘I haven’t spoken to Pietersen since that day, but I think time is a great healer. We spent a lot of time together and created some amazing memories. As two blokes, if you take cricket out of it, we have never fallen out. Since then, the internet has fallen out for us. He will have a different opinion, I’m sure.’