“This PR battle going on is not good for English cricket. I’m certainly not proud of this battle, but I’ve had to tell my side of the story.”
So said Kevin Pietersen at the Cheltenham Literature Festival this weekend. His autobiography has blown open the rifts in English cricket and the fallout continues to dominate the back pages, with players and pundits all taking sides over his accusations of “bullying” in the England dressing room.
Current England captain Alastair Cook leapt to the defence of his former coach Andy Flower, but other players and pundits were keen to hear Pietersen’s side of the story. Here’s who’s said what so far, from pundits Andrew Strauss and Geoffrey Boycott to former rival and Australia captain Ricky Ponting.
“It’s been the most therapeutic experience for me to be able to say, ‘We were in a regime for five years since Flower took over. We weren’t a team.’
“I wasn’t allowed to speak up about that regime at all; any time I came close to saying anything, I was disciplined.
“I wanted to get off my chest the honest truth of what went on in our dressing room. I wouldn’t have written the book and put so much stuff in if I didn’t have incredible evidence to back it up.
“I’ve had too many times where my character has been assassinated, where [former England coach] Andy Flower has been able to drive it one way. I’ve had my opportunity to come out and put my side of the story. It’s a sad state where English cricket is, but it didn’t have to be here. It should and could have been sorted with a decent coach.”
Current England captain Alastair Cook
“I think it’s been a sad week for English cricket. We have to draw a line under it at some stage and this is a good time.
“I’m incredibly proud to have contributed in that period, to play under Andrew Strauss, to play under Andy Flower as the coach, I’ve only got respect for these guys. I do believe it’s kind of been tarnished, that era, and I’m sad about that.
“International cricket is a tough place and, as a team, you’re striving for excellence at all times. Certainly at some stages those frustrations boiled over more than they should have done, but that was only people who were desperate to succeed and wanting to know the other ten blokes around them were committed 100% to it also.
“Did it overstep the mark a couple of times? Possibly, but we addressed those issues. That’s what happens in teams, but it certainly wasn’t a bullying environment as such.”
Former England captain Andrew Strauss
“A lot of what’s going on at the moment is madness. There’s been a lot of rumour, innuendo and opinion and I’d prefer to stick to the facts.
“The facts are Kevin Pietersen was one of England’s finest players, he played some of England’s most memorable innings and he deserves to be very proud of what he’s achieved in an England shirt.
“All this tit-for-tat stuff doesn’t help the England cricket team. The victim here isn’t Pietersen, Flower or Prior – it’s the England cricket team, Alastair Cook and Peter Moores, who have got to take the side forward. That, from my point of view, is the disappointing thing about this whole episode.”
Former ECB chief executive David Collier
“In any professional sport certain managers and leaders do have intensity from time to time. People that we respect as some of the greatest football managers have been known to be fairly robust in dressing rooms.
“Andy Flower is an intensely passionate man, he has the most superb integrity. There is no way we could have had the success over his long and successful period if there hadn’t been huge respect within that dressing room.”
Pundit and former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott
“When the English Cricket Board sacked Pietersen as captain and sacked Peter Moores, and gave the second in command Andy Flower the top job, Kevin had to play under him – after asking for him to be sacked. I thought, ‘This is a recipe for disaster‘. There was going to be trouble, there was going to be ill feeling.
“Pietersen’s entitled to his say. Not often does somebody who’s very talented get told he’s not needed. I also felt at the time that the ECB and him should have had the right of explaining their feelings. It was too big an issue to leave for six months with a moratorium or a ban.”
Pundit and former England captain Michael Vaughan
“I just can’t understand how it got to this stage where Kevin Pietersen was no longer able to be managed by an England backroom team.
“Clearly he’s a difficult character, clearly he has his different ways of playing, different ways of being, but I don’t understand how someone couldn’t have managed him over these last few years.
“The parody Twitter account seems to be the one thing that really annoyed him more than anything. I understand that – that’s come from inside the four walls of the dressing room, it’s been leaked.
“It looks like the team were trying to disrupt Pietersen in a fashion to try and get rid of him. I don’t think they realised how good a player he was and what he was doing and the impact he had on the opposition.”
Former spinner Graeme Swann
“There was absolutely no bullying. Sure, bowlers shout at fielders if they are out of position or not concentrating.
“A bowler or wicketkeeper delivers a bit of a kick up the backside – just like a goalkeeper shouts at his centre-half. This is international sport, not the Under-11s.
“If Kevin or other players can’t take a bollocking for being unprofessional, for being out of position or seemingly not trying, they are in the wrong business. I must stress bowlers never had a go at fielders for dropping catches or a genuine mistake. It was when somebody was out of position or too busy waving to the crowd.”
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting
“We saw them doing it [the bullying]. James Anderson was always the same, and Graeme 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.”