England in Australia 2006-07 December 31, 2006

Pietersen hits back at loner claims

Kevin Pietersen: "distanced from the group?" © Getty Images
Kevin Pietersen has hit back at suggestions from Australia's coach, John Buchanan, that he is not a team player, insisting that the war of words that has erupted since the end of the Melbourne Test is all part of the Aussies' psychological ploy to secure a 5-0 series whitewash, when the final Test gets underway at Sydney on January 2.

"It surprises me that he always seems distanced from the rest of the group," Buchanan had told reporters on the morning after Australia's innings-and-99-run victory at the MCG this week. "He certainly talks of himself as a team player, but I don't personally see any evidence of that."

But Pietersen, who is England's top scorer for the series with 420 runs in eight innings, rubbished such a notion, saying: "He's probably just trying to target me and have a go at me. Australia love to have a go at individuals before series, during series and after series and I'm not really too interested."

And Pietersen responded with a barb or two of his own. "[Buchanan's] not pretty well respected from what I can gather in the Australian ranks and his own team," he said, echoing the oft-reported sentiments of his friend, Shane Warne. "I think he's gone after the World Cup so that might be a good thing for Australia and everybody."

Even so, Pietersen has been under fire from all sides since the start of the Melbourne Test, not least for his reported "reluctance" to move up to No. 4 in England's batting order. He eventually appeared in that position for the second innings, but was bowled for 1 by Stuart Clark.

And his failure to appear at the squad's Christmas dinner this week, along with several other players, added further fuel to the fires. "It does hurt when people say that because I'm a massive team player," he insisted. "But Australia obviously think the series is still alive and they want to win 5-0 so they're trying to get into my head and make me feel like a lone ranger, which I'm not.

"I don't like losing, I love winning and I'll do anything to win for England and for the nation," he added. "One thing that has really got to me was all the expectation of the fans when we left for England. Now we've got to go back feeling a bit embarrassed because we haven't done as well as people said we would."

"I've never played a Test match before where we've been so convincingly hammered, so that was hard to take," he conceded. "I was distraught after Adelaide and Perth - I was really down in the dumps after losing the series. These runs that I've scored so far don't mean as much to me as they did last year because we're losing."

As for his status as a team player, Pietersen said that he had been giving batting tips to Monty Panesar, who was promoted to No. 10 in the order at Melbourne, and had also been passing on advice to his top-order colleagues on how to deal with Warne. "If people want to criticise me they can criticise me," he said. "As long as I know I prepare myself and get myself mentally tuned in to do well for this England team."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo