England's Pietersen dilemma August 8, 2012

England players innocent in Twitter send-up

Documentation seen by ESPNcricinfo proves that the parody Twitter account @KevPietersen24 is not managed by a player despite Pietersen's suspicions to the contrary

Kevin Pietersen's suspicions that a parody Twitter feed mocking him comes from the England dressing room are unfounded.

Documentation seen by ESPNcricinfo proves that the parody twitter account @KevPietersen24 is not managed by a player. While it is true that the individual behind it knows some England players quite well, it would be misleading to suggest they are being fed information or have an agenda other than humour. None of the England players knows who is behind the account.

Those behind the account are revelling in their notoriety. "You know you're a genius when you are getting column inches during the Olympics," one tweet said. "KP tried scoring hundreds but this is far easier." They later assured their followers that no England player was involved.

Information that no England player is involved in the account should end suggestions that have been floated that an England player could potentially be guilty of workplace bullying.

For all that, perhaps the episode does highlight the uncomfortable relationship between Pietersen and several senior England players that has built up in the over the last few years and that can now no longer be explained away by routine expressions of support.

The fact that Pietersen thought the account, which lampoons his sometimes self-aggrandising comments, might be the work of team mates speaks volumes of his increasing isolation within the squad.

Pietersen is understood to have instructed lawyers to shut down the account and, after a period of suspension, it was reactivated with a new avatar that no longer bore Pietersen's image.

It is telling, too, that the account has been followed by several England players, including Matt Prior, James Taylor, Graeme Swann, Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan, though Taylor has recently 'unfollowed.' While that might support the view that some in the dressing room are sharing a joke at Pietersen's expense, it is worth noting that even Pietersen himself has retweeted some comments made by the feed.

The ECB will not and cannot act against the parody account. While they did successfully instruct lawyers to act against a spoof Ian Bell account in 2009, the @KevPietersen24 feed is felt to be an obvious parody and is felt to have breached no law or Twitter regulation.

Some might conclude that Pietersen's somewhat heavy-handed response to it betrays a certain humourlessness that may be one of the reasons he finds himself an increasingly isolated figure in the England dressing room. His spells at Natal, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire also all ended under something of a cloud.

Pietersen is far from the only player to inspire a parody twitter account. Andrew Strauss, the England captain, has one. The difference in those cases is that the individuals have tended to laugh along with the joke or, in the case of Strauss, rise above them.

But such is Pietersen's state of mind that he has added the Twitter account to a list of the injustices that he must face. Following the leaks about his contract talks and the fine for his own Twitter comments about Nick Knight, this issue underlines his increasing discomfort within the England set-up.

As he said in Monday's bizarre press conference "It's not easy being me." While such comments are easy to mock the fact is that, wherever the fault may lie, there is a real danger than unless there is a concerted effort by all concerned to reintegrate Pietersen, he may well drift away forever, convincing himself as he turns to a life on the T20 circuit that he has been wronged.

News that he will not face disciplinary charges from the ECB as a result of his press conference at the end of the Headingley Test will come as scant relief.

Stuart Broad, England's pace bowler, was dismissive of Pietersen's concerns when he spoke to Sky Sports News.

"If there is a problem, it is important it gets sorted and we take the field at Lord's with 11 guys who want to win for England," he said.

"With the rules, when we get to the ground we hand our phone in at 8am and get it back at 8pm. It would take a bit of genius to tweet from the wicket. It is not a major problem. It is a bit of fun for whoever is doing it and I don't think it is as big a story as the papers are making out.

"We spend virtually every day together, it is thoroughly enjoyable, we have a laugh. There is not a better working environment to go into. You get out of bed to go and play with your mates for your country. It is one of the biggest honours you could ever have and within that changing room everyone values that."

Perhaps the absurdity of the episode was perhaps best highlighted when a parody of Richie Benaud tweeted: "These parody accounts are a nuisance and damaging the game I love. RB." It was a parody parodying a parody. We live in confusing times.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo