KEVIN Pietersen’s bitter parting with England is threatening to sow seeds of more pain for the national team as his claims of bullying in the dressing room struck a chord with opponents round the world.
As Pietersen, and England, were urged to “move on” by his former Ashes-winning team-mate and latterly coach Ashley Giles – after the sad end to his stellar but controversial international career – revelations in his autobiography about constant bullying in the camp were quickly corroborated by Ricky Ponting.
The former Australia captain recognises Pietersen’s depiction of Graeme Swann as one of the main protagonists when it came to intimidating team-mates who made fielding errors.
Swann has denied any issue of bullying by him, fellow bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson – or Pietersen’s least favourite of all, wicketkeeper Matt Prior – and England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton has also said no such issue has ever been reported to management.
But, as the world digests the contents of a leaked document apparently containing the ECB’s log of Pietersen’s misdemeanours in Australia, before he was sacked in February in the messy aftermath of England’s Ashes whitewash, Ponting spoke up in his defence.
The great Australian batsman was merely an observer last winter, having retired from international cricket, but recalled many previous occasions of aggravation in the English ranks. He also made it clear in Australian tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, that opposition teams will be missing a trick if they do not try to take advantage of any disunity.
Despite Pietersen’s marathon round of interviews on Tuesday, to publicise his book KP: The Autobiography which goes on general sale today, he has found time to seek out supporters of his damning critique of former coach Andy Flower’s England regime – and it was he himself who tweeted an Internet link to Ponting’s remarks, with the accompanying exhortation “PLS READ THIS”.
Ponting said of England’s alleged on-field antics: “We saw them doing it – Anderson was always the same, and Swann.
“The pointing of fingers, and you’d hear a few expletives if there was a misfield or a dropped catch.
“The guys who were doing it were the so-called leaders. That’s where the captain has got to come in, not wait and let little things turn into big things. That’s what it sounds like has happened in this England team.”
Ponting led Australia in four Ashes series and recalls long-standing evidence of bullying among the opposition.
He said: “They had a lot of very good players that were able to achieve a lot of success as a team.
“But, if you could just get inside of them and start pulling them apart, we always had a feeling they would implode pretty quickly – and that’s what’s happened over the past 12 months.
“I wasn’t surprised with [Jonathan] Trott [leaving last winter’s Ashes tour]; I wasn’t surprised with Swann retiring when he did. When the ship started to go down, he jumped off pretty quickly – and now all the Pietersen stuff.”
Pietersen also tweeted yesterday about his fellow 2005 Ashes-winner Giles, describing him as a “great man” after confirmation he will be Lancashire’s new head coach.
Giles was reluctant to take sides between Pietersen and England, having been national limited-overs coach until six months ago, when he was passed over for the top job in charge of the team in all formats in favour of Peter Moores.
“I played in the dressing-room with Kev, and got on very well with Kev – but similarly, with those other guys as well,” he said.
“Then, when I coached them, I never had any major issues with any of them.” In early 2013, Giles described Pietersen as England’s “million-pound asset” – and agrees it is a sad outcome that the record-breaking batsman’s international career appears to be over.
“Yes. He would still consider himself to be a multi-million pound asset, I’m sure – he’s that sort of player,” Giles added.
“He’s the big show, if you like. But things have unfolded, and he’s not going to play for England again by the looks of it.
“I’m sure it’s disappointing for him – but everyone has to move on.”