At a time when Kevin Pietersen is completing a horrendous Indian Premier League season as Delhi Daredevils captain, the new managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board has revealed why the maverick batsman was sacked from the national side. Speaking to BBC's Test Match Special, Downton, who was appointed three months ago, said Pietersen had no friends in the England dressing room.
A "distracted" and "disinterested" Pietersen was sacked on February 5, soon after England were thrashed by Australia in the Ashes. "I watched Kevin as a fan for the first four Tests but it was frustrating seeing him with his 'this is the way I play' type attitude," Downton said, adding "Clarke played him like a schoolboy almost," suggesting that the Aussie skipper easily trapped Pietersen with his ploys. (Counter-attack: Kevin Pietersen lashes out against ECB chief)
"There was an enormous amount of frustration surrounding KP from everyone in management team in terms of his attitude and whether he was really fighting it out," Downton added. "There was a feeling KP wasn't engaged in the way he should be." (Kevin Pietersen fined for slow over rate)
Downton witnessed the Sydney Test and found 33-year-old Pietersen out of focus. "I watched every ball and I've never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted on a cricket field as Kevin. It led me to talk to every person on the management team within England and a lot outside it. I also talked to quite a few senior players and couldn't find one supporter who said 'we want KP to stay in the side'. (Kevin Pietersen made England's scapegoat: Viv Richards)
"I then spent the next three weeks speaking to more people but the decision we came to was in the best interests of English cricket." (KP sacking was disrespectful: Gayle)
Downton said: "Accusations were made that Kevin had too many different agendas and was not 100 per cent focused on playing for England. Who knows if that's right but that was the unanimous feeling.
"It came down to who we were going to back? Cook and Bell to be the backbone of the team over the next three to five years, or KP? It became a bit of a no-brainer."
"We would have been quite happy to let his contract run out but his team pushed to terminate it," Downton said. "Kevin wanted to be free to play where he wanted, especially with the IPL auction coming up. He won a big contract because of it."
But Pietersen has failed to lift Delhi Daredevils, who paid a whopping 9 crore in the IPL auction in February. Pietersen was made skipper but missed the first few matches due to injury. His best score before Friday's match against Mumbai Indians was a 49 against Kings XI Punjab at Feroz Shah Kotla. With just three scores of above 30, Pietersen did precious little as Delhi captain. (Kevin Pietersen, hardly a Daredevil)
With England determined to build a young team for the future, Pietersen will now have to ride his luck as a freelance cricketer.