SVGE Analysis: Kevin Pietersen discusses England career on Clare Balding Show
Europe’s most versatile sports presenter Clare Balding switched smoothly from fronting C4 Racing’s coverage of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to toasting and roasting former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen for her own live BT Sport chat show last week, during his tour of UK TV studios promoting his new book. Using a standing audience asked to put up questions, Balding got Pietersen to outline and contextualise some key exposures in his contentious autobiography (penned by David Walsh).
“It’s been a tough couple of days because anything I’ve said has ended up in the news stream straight away. I have revealed stuff that is ground breaking in terms of what’s going on at the moment,” said Pietersen. “It is a tropical storm that comes through so you just wait for it to pass, but this week will be carnage because I will be in the eye of that storm. It was important to me to get my side of the story heard.”
He came to England in 2000 as an off-spinning bowler who didn’t bat so well, and ended up playing 104 test matches and scoring 8,000 runs. “I have trained my brain to the sacking to realise I have been very lucky: I’d love 10,000 test runs, but the greedy part of me I have now left behind,” Pietersen said.
Asked about the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) authored ‘Get Pietersen’ dossier leaked to the cricinfo site, he said: “I do not think the ECB helped itself. You only need to look at social media: the way of the world is not faxes, emails and leaked documents.”
Many former colleagues have ridiculed Pietersen’s book in the press, and the ECB attitude suggests possible legal challenges. “Because of the legal ramifications of writing autobiographies and making allegations I would not have written this stuff if I thought I’d end up in the high court,” he said.
Unexpected support came from Australian great Ricky Ponting, who stated he had witnessed the culture of abuse run by English bowlers that Pietersen identifies.
“Nothing in this book is stuff that the (former) coach of England Andy Flower has not heard about. I told him everything to his face,” he said.
Any bullying aimed at Pietersen was not direct. “There were double standards. Certain players they knew they would not be able to take on,” he said. “My bullying was the twitter parodying account, which I was told was being run from inside the dressing room.”
Pietersen stated that former test great Alex Stewart had taken the issue of @KPGenius to the MD of the ECB and had asked him to sort it out, but, “the ECB just squashed it”.
He cried during the second test match at Headingly, in front of Flower – “I was broken. I was gone. Emotionally shattered.” – but subsequently, after despairing in a dark room for 50 minutes, he played possibly his best ever innings.
Stewart subsequently affirmed that in July 2012 he told the ECB about the parody twitter account. But the infamous breaking point between Pietersen and the establishment came in another area – his texts to South African players prior to the Headingly test.
“It was an incredible story for the ECB to whack me with. They could really go hard at it because it really looked bad,” he said. “The most depressing thing about that is the bit about tactical information: what a load of garbage.”
Pietersen accepts the texts appeared disloyal: “I do regret getting involved, and for that to become such a big public thing. Those messages should never have got out,” he said.
What would he advise new ECB chief executive Tom Harrison to do ASAP? “Bring the England cricket team closer to the public,” he said.