Cricket - ECB selector stonewalls over 'tricky' Pietersen axe

England selector James Whitaker brushed aside questions about Kevin Pietersen's sacking in extraordinary fashion as he admitted no more than that it had been "a tricky decision" to fire the team's top batsman and biggest box-office draw.

Pietersen's axing has drawn huge criticism, with a string of former England captains - most notably and eloquently Ian Botham - lining up to demand answers.

But Whitaker refused to discuss the reasons for Pietersen being moved on as he spoke to Sky Sports News, claiming that his silence was a "legal position" which meant that "at the moment I am not at liberty to say."

"Unfortunately I'm not in a position to reiterate what reasons there have been," he added, after his telephone interview was briefly interrupted by a second phone call coming through in the background.

"It's still a surprise going to an ICC competition without one of your leading run-scorers but the players and management are well rehearsed in coping without him," he added at length.

"Yes, it was a tricky decision," he then conceded, "but in another way it gives opportunities for players to play in that environment."

Whitaker alluded to the period following the 'Textgate' scandal, which saw Pietersen temporarily dropped from the side after sending derogatory messages about his team-mates to South African players, using it as an example of England's ability to do well without the South African-born star batsman.

"The one-day international team and the England Twenty20 team has played a number of matches over the last 12 months or so without Kevin and, on occasion, performed very well, and I would hope that's the case going forward," Whitaker said.