Tom Reeves reports from Kevin Pietersen’s candid interview with BT Sport’s Clare Balding.
After a dramatic week, former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen has revealed his claims of a bullying culture in the team dressing room have been supported by a number of current and past players – and criticised the outdated, old-fashioned attitudes of cricket’s governing body in England.
In his new book “KP: The Autobiography”, one of the controversial claims the former England skipper made was that wicketkeeper Matt Prior and the senior bowlers forced their team-mates to apologise every time they misfielded or dropped a catch.
The accusation has been strenuously denied by many of the group, including Graeme Swann, Dominic Cork, Tim Bresnan and Prior himself among others – and even mocked in some quarters, which some suggesting that such events are part and parcel of international cricket.
Perhaps most interestingly, though, among the most high profile of players to publicly back the 34-year-old’s allegation is Ricky Ponting, who captained Australia to three Ashes series defeats out of four between 2005 and 2011.
“Books like this, when you bring stuff out like this, when you’ve got evidence to back it up and people who are prepared to back it up,” said Pietersen, who was interviewed on the Clare Balding Show at the BT Sport studio in Stratford, East London along with Rugby League players Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow.
“Now, I haven’t even spoken to Ponting. I’m a good mate of his. When I woke up this morning and saw one of the greatest cricketers to ever play the game had said this [it made me feel happy].”
He continued: “How do you think he (Ponting) views it when he’s in the opposition and he’s seeing team-mates abuse each other, bully each other on the cricket field?
“How do you reckon it must feel for the individuals that are going through it in that dressing room when opposition teams, and I know because I’ve spoken to opposition players, and it’s one of the first things they say (about the bullying)?
“At the MCC vs Rest of The World game, all the legends of cricket over the last 10 to 15 years were there. One of the topics of conversation was about the abuse England players give each other on the field. So it’s a huge issue.
“It is something people have said to me today – ‘Well, why have you brought this out in your book? To sell books?’ I said I haven’t brought this out in my book just to sell books.
“I have been speaking to the coach about it for years. Nothing in this book is stuff that the coach of England, the ex-coaches have not heard about. I’ve told them to their face.”
Pietersen was in no doubt that he felt most bullied when a Twitter account parodying him gained a lot of attention on social media, criticising the ECB’s lack of action after Alec Stewart reported that he had been informed that England players were involved in it.
“’You need to investigate this. You need to sort this out!’ and they did nothing – I mean, come on!”
Balding asked Pietersen if he had felt betrayed. He nodded.
“We’ve all been through it – if you lose your wallet, if you lose your passport or you lose your mobile phone or something you think is bad just happened, that empty feeling, that hollow feeling, which goes through you, you just get that cold feeling. That’s the feeling I got when I found out.”
After the key allegations from Pietersen’s book had been released, an ECB dossier was leaked, which listed details of the former England captain’s actions in the 5-0 Ashes whitewash in the 2013/14 series.
“I think there are times in your life where you shoot yourself in the foot and I don’t think the ECB helped themselves last night,” the 34-year-old responded. “That’s actually embarrassing what happened…it not’s something I really want to give much of my time to.”
He continued, “The way of the world at the moment is social media; the way of the world is not facts, emails and leaked documents. The way of the world is social media, and unfortunately when you’re dealing with dinosaurs who don’t understand social media, they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot and they’ve done it.”
One of the points the ECB made was their request of Pietersen to stop journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan from posting on his own personal Twitter account.
“Can you honestly believe that?” exclaimed the right-handed batsman. “It’s Piers’ fault we lost the Ashes everyone, nobody else’s. Not Mitchell Johnson’s, it’s Piers!”