England captain Andrew Strauss insists he has always enjoyed a good relationship with Kevin Pietersen and claims the current unrest in the England dressing room has taken him by surprise.
Pietersen was dropped by England after he failed to deny allegations that he sent text messages to members of the touring South Africa team which contained derogatory remarks about his England team-mates.
In an explosive couple of weeks for the England camp, Pietersen has also made it clear he feels isolated within the Test group, whilst it has emerged the Surrey batsman was also upset by a parody Twitter account that was followed by some of his own team-mates.
Strauss has expressed his regret that Pietersen "aired dirty laundry in public" as his contract wrangles with the ECB escalated to Twitter and the now infamous text-message intrigue.
However, the England skipper appears to have been taken aback that the saga over Pietersen's contract impasse this summer, following his shock retirement from limited-overs internationals in May, should suddenly have moved into overdrive.
"I've always got on with Kevin," Strauss told Sky Sports. "I've tried to be honest with him; he's been honest with me.
"That's why this has all been a bit of a surprise to me.
"I think the discontent that Kevin had with the board over his contract situation was one that the players didn't get involved in - and I didn't really get involved in, if I'm honest.
"But over the last week I have had to get involved, because there have been issues a little bit more central to his relationship with the other players and our ability to perform out in the middle."
But points of principle are at stake for Strauss, and coach Andy Flower, who have formed a successful management axis in an era of notable success for England.
Indeed, Strauss insists that any players who break the team's code of conduct and threaten to disrupt unity should expect tough punishment.
But while Pietersen has been dropped for the crucial third and final Test with South Africa - which is also Strauss' 100th Test, and 50th as captain - the England captain hinted that the situation is far from irretrievable.
"Firstly, I'm a big believer in not airing dirty laundry in public," he added.
"It's one of our core values in our team that what goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room.
"Any time anyone has fallen foul of that they have been disciplined - and rightly so.
"It's about mutual respect and trust, and that is a core issue that is central to resolving this."