England news July 5, 2014

Strauss 'mortified' at Pietersen slur


Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, has made a shame-faced public apology to Kevin Pietersen after he was inadvertently caught on air describing him as a "c***" from the back of the TV commentary box at Lord's.

Strauss, part of the commentary team for the MCC's bicentenary celebration match against the Rest of the World, thought he was off air, but the feed was still being broadcast on some channels and viewers using the Fox Sports app in Australia caught the expletive.

It was not long before Strauss' faux pas was being gossiped around the world with former England captain Adam Hollioake one of the first to exclaim with surprise on Facebook.

"I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen," Strauss said, as his error became public knowledge. "I am mortified and profusely sorry."

His co-commentator, Michael Atherton, another former England captain, remarked: "I think that's covered it; let's move on." But there will be no moving on for a while as Pietersen's supporters will find just cause to rail against the double standards they perceive to be at the heart of English cricket.

Sky TV also felt obliged to apologise for Strauss' stray remark - although only for the bad language. It tweeted: "Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used."

Two years ago, Pietersen famously incurred the ECB's wrath by texting that Strauss was a "doos", an Afrikaans word that strictly speaking means "box" but which has similar connotations to Strauss' remark. Except some linguists might point out that "doos" can also be slang for idiot, whereas c*** pretty much leaves nothing to the imagination.

Pietersen's comment on Strauss came midway through a Test at Headingley against South Africa in 2012, and was made to a South African player who, whether by accident or design, allowed it to reach the public domain. The ECB saw it as evidence of an outright rebellion against an England captain; Strauss has written that he never entirely trusted Pietersen again after that point.

Strauss, twice an Ashes-winning captain, retired following South Africa's 2-0 win in that series. He reflected soon afterwards on the brouhaha in his autobiography, Driving Ambition. He wrote: 'For me, he had crossed the line. He seemed to be at best destabilising and at worst undermining our carefully cultivated team environment."

Both insults were, in essence, private communications that entered the public domain. The difference is that Pietersen and Strauss were team-mates in the first instance, charged with maintaining at least the pretence of unity.

Pietersen's comments effectively cost him his international career. He had to undergo a theatrical "process of reintegration" before he was allowed back into the England fraternity. Then he began to show impatience with the careworn captaincy of Alastair Cook, Strauss' successor, during a demoralising 5-0 whitewash in Australia and he was removed for good at the end of the series with the ECB stating it wanted to rebuild the "team ethic and philosophy".

Paul Downton, the MD of England cricket, has since called Pietersen "a man of too many agendas" and claimed he did not have a single supporter in the side - a claim furiously dismissed by Pietersen.

There were immediate calls from Pietersen supporters for Strauss to suffer the same fate. But Strauss has retired; such an outcome is impossible. 'Then sack him from his Sky contract,' will come the cry. Such a taste for revenge would make the response even more disproportionate, but modern life, with every dot and comma analysed on social media, is laced with a desire for blood.

Predictably, Piers Morgan, chat-show host, former tabloid editor and Pietersen confidant, was the first to do just that. Prior to Strauss' apology, he tweeted: "If Strauss story is true then he'll have to be fired, surely? Or is a commentator calling @KP24 a 'c**t' on air acceptable @SkyCricket?

"After all, Strauss himself axed KP from his England team for allegedly saying similar things about him that weren't even broadcast."

That Pietersen and Strauss, despite their shared South African roots, do not get on is not news. Everybody knew as much. That a stray insult was made when Strauss presumed he was off air would also not normally be news. But any suspicion of double standards in this tawdry, overblown soap opera is news and, as such, Strauss' remarks need to be made public.

When Pietersen, to his horror, was outed in 2012, he tried to influence public opinion by issuing a fulsome apology on YouTube, only to make the ECB even more angry because of his presumption.

Strauss will suffer his shame privately. There will be shame because he knows his public perception will have faltered as a result. There will be shame, too, because he made his slip during the MCC bicentenary match and because as a natural conservative, a proud believer in tradition, to have slipped up at Lord's will feel even worse.

He can no longer hold the moral high ground. Until today, it is a privileged position from where he has observed this whole, shoddy, tiresome business. He is now down in the gutter, wallowing around with the rest of us.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • S on July 11, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    Good on you Strauss......pretty apt description of KP

  • Steve on July 8, 2014, 11:09 GMT

    Read a bit more on the context of the Strauss rant, I believe jealousy to be at the heart of it! What the other egos in the England camp should know is that for all his faults, KP was a MATCH WINNER. None of our 2005 side would have been OBE without that frankly unbelievable innings on the last day at the Oval. Don't believe me? Do you think Federer cares about winning 5 games in a row on Sunday, to take the final to a 5th set? No, cos he lost! FF was rightly man of series, everyone played their part, but only a KP could have put the series to bed. Similarly India away, SA at Headingly, and several other knocks. Men like him, Lara, are difficult to manage BECAUSE of this rare quality, one that others, even ( especially?) team mates envy...

  • John on July 8, 2014, 4:31 GMT

    @Vinod_Fab on (July 6, 2014, 15:48 GMT), you are a complete KP fanboy so you're never going to admit any responsibility on KP's part. You're assurances that KP It was reported that KP referred to Strauss as a "box" or the like in a text message to one or more members of the SA team. That probably doesn't carry quite the same weight as the term Strauss used but I believe it refers to the same part of the anatomy. No, I don't know for sure that that's what he said but you don't know that he didn't either. You don't know what KP thinks or has said about anyone behind their back or to their face. You're just assuming things about him because you want to. I'm not laying all the blame at KP's feet but I'm also not naive enough to believe that KP is blameless for all that's happened to him. If Strauss thinks that way of him then there are undoubtedly reasons and you can't claim to have enough information to judge KP innocent.

  • Mashuq on July 7, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    I commend your way of summing up the gist of the issue, Mr Hopps: "There will be shame because he knows his public perception will have faltered as a result. There will be shame, too, because he made his slip during the MCC bicentenary match and because as a natural conservative, a proud believer in tradition, to have slipped up at Lord's will feel even worse." It is not even a case of KP v Strauss; it's a case of an hypocrisy that is perceived to collude with that natural conservatism seamlessly undermining English cricket on and off the field. I concur entirely, @tinkertinker.

  • Peter on July 7, 2014, 18:22 GMT

    The important point is WHY Strauss thinks that way.

  • John on July 7, 2014, 17:59 GMT

    @Sexysteven on (July 7, 2014, 3:51 GMT) So you know exactly what KP has said/done to Strauss over the years? Please enlighten us so we can have an opinion on the matter.

  • John on July 7, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    I think many people are missing the point in that it's not about KP. It's about Strauss using the C word while having a mic on him. It's not like he didn't know there were mics about the place or anything so he can't plead total ignorance here. KP could be the biggest (what Strauss called him) in the world but that does not make it right to use the C word anywhere near commentary box.

    STEVE48 - Uses the Ron analogy in football. For me this is actually worse as at least Ron was referring to a players attitude on the pitch and not a generalisation of him as a person.

  • Kerron on July 7, 2014, 14:42 GMT

    Well, I think they are both right..... :-)

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2014, 10:59 GMT

    I gotta say, from an Aussie's point of view this is hilarious. Englands heirachy, former greats and current stars ripping each other apart from all angles, basically imploding. From that angle alone, Strauss should know better.

    It does show that whatever the likes of Nick Knight, who I'm guessing was in furious agreement and Strauss say about KP, it has to be taken with a healthy dose of salt.

    Whether or not Strauss thought he was on air, it is still pretty poor form to use that kind of language in the public domain, he has been caught out well and truly here, only Sky can judge on what his punishment should be.

  • Steve on July 7, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    I accept AS believed he was off air, but this sort of 'banter' in a commentary box is unprofessional and shows nothing has been learned from Ron Atkinson et al, who ended up sacked for off air comments that get picked up! Was this really the place for back biting about a former team mate? Was he asked his opinion of KP by anyone in the 'box? What was the motivation? In the PR stakes, KP just keeps winning as others involved show their less than shiny colours, whatever the truth of the whole saga may be. Am fascinated to see how KP pitches his autobiography; does his so far very good PR machine see him through to clear victory, or does he succumb to tit- for- tat, and spoil it for himself? By his DT articles, don't think he will, apart from the self importance shown in 'why Gilo didn't get the coaching job'! As for AS apologising to him, really, why bother? Unless he can show joking context to it, perhaps re. the doos text, damage is done, isn't it?

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