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Strauss takes over England

KEVIN Pietersen flew back to London early yesterday after quitting as England captain, facing the turmoil caused by his fallout with fired coach Peter Moores and an apparent rift within the team.

Surrounded by armed police, Pietersen was greeted by a throng of photographers, cameramen and reporters on his arrival at Heathrow Airport after a flight from South Africa. He made no comment as he walked through the terminal, then drove away.

The England team was thrown into disarray on Wednesday when Pietersen quit as captain and Moores was fired by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

"What a mess," former coach Duncan Fletcher said in The Guardian. "How sad for English cricket that a year containing a home Ashes series has begun in such chaos.

"The selectors really should have stepped in before things turned ugly. Instead, England are in real trouble with the arrival of the Australians only a few months away. It all seems such a shame."

Reports suggested there was a split within the England team, with Andrew Flintoff among several players turning against Pietersen in the conflict with Moores.

Pietersen, who has been replaced by Andrew Strauss for the upcoming tour of the West Indies, has pledged to stay on as a player. But Fletcher, who stepped down after England's flop at the 2007 World Cup, said the South African-born batsman's return as non-captain could cause trouble.

"There are egos in that dressing room who could cause more problems for the new captain. Not least of the difficulties will be how to handle KP (Pietersen) when he returns to the rank and file," Fletcher said.

"Will the dressing room divide into pro- and anti-KP camps? Will the new captain have the backing of all the senior players? It's going to be a huge issue for the poor captain in the months ahead."

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote in his newspaper column that Strauss would be able to bring stability back to the team.

"If there is one man who can get the England team to gel and bring the players together after weeks and even months of damaging rumors, it is Andrew Strauss," Vaughan wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"Such a decent man can bring back maturity and stability to the England team."

Vaughan tearfully quit the captaincy last year when England lost two tests in a row at home to South Africa and knew it had already lost the series. He was replaced by Pietersen, who won the last test.

Pietersen also was in charge when England lost the recent test series in India but was praised for leading the team back to the country soon after the Mumbai terror attacks. The England team left India immediately after the attacks with the team 5-0 down in a one-day series.


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