The Andrew Strauss take on England outcast Kevin Pietersen

The latest episode in the cricket soap opera surrounding Kevin Pietersen looks unlikely to bring any insights into life behind the scenes in the England cricket dressing room, even though the most talented and controversial England batsman of recent years looks to have jettisoned for good, with a great many secrets to take with him.
Andrew Strauss

Perhaps what England skipper Alastair Cook and ex-head coach Andy Flower really think about Pietersen brilliant but destructive career will be revealed in a book one day, when what appears to be a mutually agreed omertà among the parties involved can be put to one side.

In the meantime, here's some of what Cook's predecessor Andrew Strauss had to say about KP in his autobiography, Driving Ambition, published by Hodder and Stoughton in October last year, beginning with the call from Flower that marked the start of the 'textgate' saga that marred the last weeks of the former captain's career.

Strauss recalled the words of Flower's call, ahead of the third and final Test of the 2012 series against South Africa, at Lords: "Straussy, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I have received information that KP has sent some text messages to the South African players criticising you and perhaps even giving them information on how to get you out. A newspaper is apparently in possession of the texts and intends to print them."

He described himself as "dumbfounded" at what he felt was at the very least "talking out of school" on Pietersen's part but horrified at the notion he might suggest ways in which the South Africans might get him out.  If that were true, Strauss wrote, "that amounted to treachery and I would never forgive him."

The England captain believed it would be impossible to move on unless Pietersen at least apologised for sending the texts, if he could not deny them, as well as revealing what he had said. "He was alleged to have referred to me as a ‘doos’ — an Afrikaans word which means a ‘box’ but which in slang can have another more insulting meaning."

Strauss said he became "increasingly tired and exasperated" during the episode, in which he felt Pietersen was "more concerned with coming out of the saga in the best possible light than with doing the right thing by his team-mates."

"The nagging frustration I still have," he wrote, "is that all of that time, effort and commitment from our players over a three-year period to make our environment special and different were undermined in one episode."

Yet he was dismayed at the perception widely held that it was his relationship with Pietersen that lay behind the incident, insisting that until the second Test match of that series, at Headingley, the pair had never had a significant dispute. The root cause, Strauss believed, was Pietersen's long-standing resentment of the ECB over the way he was forced to resign as England captain in 2009 after he and former coach Peter Moores had fallen out.

"There is no doubt that the way his stint in charge of the England team ended was a significant assault on KP’s ego," Strauss wrote, adding that although Pietersen returned to the team and scored runs, using his batting "to settle his score with the ECB", there was bitterness below the surface.

"His loyalty to English cricket, and the ECB in particular, was severely affected. And the simmering resentment came to the surface during the summer of 2012.

"Kevin had been trying to secure more time for himself to play in the IPL after he had signed a contract with the Delhi Daredevils reputedly worth $2 million. The ECB were unwilling - rightly, in my opinion - to let any player either miss or not be properly prepared to play in a Test match in order to fulfil IPL obligations, and so an ugly stand-off ensued between Pietersen and the board, which was probably the backdrop to him suddenly retiring from ODI cricket shortly after the West Indies Test series."

Strauss said that he tried to stay out of the dispute for the most part, but described incidents in the lead-up to the Headingley Test that forced him to become more involved.

"On the practice days, he seemed completely withdrawn, as though he was consciously distancing himself from the team," Strauss wrote. "And on the first day of the game itself he seemed determined to let everyone in the ground know just how unhappy he was.  As captain, I could not let it go and I called him into a back room to make it clear his behaviour was unacceptable. I was shocked by his lack of contrition and his apparent hostility towards me. It felt as though he was trying to goad me into a confrontation. It was almost as if he was trying to engineer an excuse to turn his back on the team."

Strauss asked some of the senior players, specifically Cook, Jimmy Anderson and Matt Prior, to try to persuade Pietersen to change his attitude.  His response, of course, was to produce one of the greatest batting performances of his or any England batsman's career, destroying the world’s best bowling attack with a brilliant 149. "You can say what you want about Kevin Pietersen, but you can never doubt his immense ability," Strauss commented.

Any admiration for him dissolved, however, when Pietersen addressed the media later, intimating that he had played his last Test match and famously declaring that ‘It’s tough being me, playing for England’.

This Strauss took as "implying he was being treated badly by his team-mates in the dressing room."

"For me, he had crossed the line," he added. "He seemed to be at best destabilising and at worst undermining our carefully cultivated team environment."

Then came reconciliation.  In a meeting arranged by ECB management, Strauss described Pietersen as seeming "contrite about what had happened and...re-affirmed his willingness and commitment to come back into the fold."

But the emergence of the text messages story was the final straw for Strauss.  "Without the sudden appearance of those text messages - which had come to light a little too conveniently from a South African point of view for my liking -  the matter would have been well on the way to being solved. We could all have forgiven and forgotten."

Pietersen, of course, was allowed yet another chance, returning to the side after a period of re-integration. Strauss resigned from the captaincy at the end of the South Africa series, announcing simultaneously that he was retiring as a player from all forms of the game.

Buy Driving Ambition: My Autobiography from Amazon,  Waterstones or WHSmith.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment or submit your own sports book review