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Pietersen falls victim to a very English revolution

David Hopps

February 6, 2014

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Pietersen decision continues to divide opinion

Andy Flower blamed Kevin Pietersen for a players' revolt in Australia against his intense coaching style and, even before he accepted his own resignation was inevitable, became adamant that Pietersen must play no further part in the England side.

Flower's determination to rid the team of Pietersen, on the grounds that he posed a danger to team unity, was only partly justified by events and owed much to memories of how Pietersen had already brought down a previous England coach, Peter Moores, five years earlier.

The outcome was spectacularly similar. Back in 2009, Hugh Morris, managing director of England cricket, sacked Moores as coach and Pietersen was forced to stand down from the captaincy he had held for only a few months. On this occasion, Paul Downton, in his first week in the job as Morris' successor, forced a conclusion in which Flower - his views on Pietersen made abundantly clear - resigned as team director with his reputation unimpaired and Pietersen was discarded from the England set-up forever.

The ECB hierarchy has always suspected Pietersen as a potential agitator and will protect the authority of senior figures ahead of all other considerations.

Pietersen, not for the first time, spectacularly misread the players' mood after Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, England's captain and vice-captain, called a meeting, with the knowledge of the coaching staff, on the redundant final day of the Melbourne Test after England had gone 4-0 down in the series.

Swann 'baffled' by KP decision

  • Graeme Swann, the former England offspinner who retired midway through the tour of Australia, has expressed his surprise at the ECB's decision to cut Kevin Pietersen loose.
  • Swann, who made his Test debut under Pietersen's captaincy, admitted that there had been ill-feeling towards Pietersen during the 2012 texting affair that led to him being dropped but said that the players had successfully put that behind them. Writing in his Sun column, Swann also described Pietersen's attitude during the Ashes as "exceptional".
  • "He made a huge effort to improve his attitude around the dressing room," Swann wrote. "I saw or heard no issues with him in Australia this winter, his approach was exceptional. That's why I was baffled on Tuesday when he was effectively sacked as an England player.
  • "Looking back, I could have understood if Kevin's career with England had finished after 'textgate'. But to go through the reintegration process and then, just 15 months later, discard him for good seems very strange.
  • "Clearly, Kevin must have upset people enough for the England hierarchy to decide he is no longer wanted. Don't forget, we're not talking about a middling player here -- we're talking about a batsman of sublime talent. As I say, I saw nothing while I was on the Ashes tour. His approach was spot-on."

As ESPNcricinfo reported at the time, concerns were growing that that Flower's coaching methods were too suffocating, and having a detrimental effect on performance. The meeting, as perceived by Cook and Prior, was a well-meaning attempt to redress the balance, and encourage players to take more responsibility for their own actions. The absence of England's swollen backroom staff was intended to give players a chance to speak freely about what they felt was a growing predicament.

Reports in the Telegraph suggest that Pietersen then "embarked upon an anti-Flower rant". The tone of his remarks shocked many players, who had no wish to overthrow Flower and many felt guilty about the meeting as a result.

It was not long before Flower heard about what had occurred - and it was not long before he summoned Pietersen to his hotel room in Sydney to accuse him of unacceptable behaviour and undermining his authority, and that of the captain, Cook, during a highly-fraught exchange.

Pietersen had been agitating about Flower's severe management style for some time and was known to be hopeful that Ashley Giles, the one-day coach, would encourage a more relaxed environment.

Memories of Pietersen's derisive text messages in 2012 to South African players about his captain at the time, Andrew Strauss, meant that his team ethic remained in permanent doubt and, in essence, he was on final warning.

Flower, hurt by events, also asked senior players about what had emerged in their confidential, clear-the-air meeting and about the extent of their dissatisfaction with his coaching style. At that point, the sound of sheepish backtracking could be heard from players who for all their misgivings retained deep respect for Flower's integrity, drive and concern for their welfare.

Any imaginings Pietersen had that he could stoke a wider rebellion were proved to be illusory. His lack of empathy with the general mood, which tends to be consumed by his own ego, has previously been suggested as a tragic character trait that has repeatedly cost him.


Kevin Pietersen chats with Andy Flower, Lord's, May 30, 2013
Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower have had a strained relationship for some time © PA Photos
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An unseemly spat on Twitter has now revealed the sense among some Pietersen's closest allies that he has been left as the fall guy for a situation he did not engineer.

The chief source of their bitterness is Prior, who they asserted had "stabbed Pietersen in the back", accusing him of withdrawing his criticism that Flower was behaving like a school head teacher when Flower pressed him directly on the subject.

Prior responded furiously on Twitter, needing a series of tweets to get his point across. "I am not the kind of person to divulge what is said in team meetings, but all I will say is that Flower, Cook and the rest of my team-mates know exactly what I said and the way in which it was meant," he wrote.

"There is no story here, just an attempt to knock someone who has only ever had the team's interests at heart and tried my best on and off the field to help the England cricket team. I can hold my head up high in that knowledge."

Tim Bresnan became the first England player to back up Prior's insistence that his comments had been measured and non-rebellious. "I was in that TEAM meeting and @MattPrior13 said nothing wrong," he tweeted. "And only ever has the TEAM'S best interests at heart. Undeserved criticism."

Pietersen, who ironically had never felt himself more welcome in the England environment, nevertheless was stunned at how events gathered such pace that his England career collapsed before him. He had become the victim of a very English revolution.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (February 9, 2014, 22:46 GMT)

Pieterson's dismissal seems amazingly similar to the way the West Indies board dismissed Chris Gayle a few years ago, but eventual had to recant their decision. Anyway, it is about time that a nation like England, with a population of 50 odd million started depending on home grown talent instead of plundering mercenaries from other countries just for the sake of winning.

Posted by ramli on (February 9, 2014, 17:09 GMT)

English cricket has not depended on individuals unlike in sub-continent ... but forcing uncharitable exit to a leading player is insulting ... how this will re-energise England players? Foolish thinking on the part of England cricket bosses ...

Posted by   on (February 9, 2014, 14:44 GMT)

Thank you David for a most instructive and informative article. And WOW -- "The ECB hierarchy.......will protect the authority of senior figures ahead of all other considerations." I have wondered if some of the irritation felt (by me, along with so many others) about the chopping of KP is because one feels the ECB/Flower has not played fair with him (or us, for that matter). It was widely reported at the time of his losing the captaincy that KP was no great fan of Flower, but he took his punishment from the ECB then, gritted his teeth and did perform under Flower. Then, re textgate, again he took his punishment, and duly ate humble pie in order to get back in the team. So, those offences are "spent". And, if his chief offence on THIS occasion was to speak his mind at a private team meeting the punishment does not fit the crime. IT ISN'T CRICKET if that was his "ethical fault".

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (February 8, 2014, 9:47 GMT)

@insult-2injury & MikeRo… cdnt agree more… no case to answer for the ECB, kp is a rapidly declining part time player in a team that needs to rebuild, if that player cannot assume a team mentality then he should go, for the benefit of the team… he has had a cpl of extra yrs and shd be grateful, kp should never have been welcomed back after 'textgate'… anyone who has played in a team sport would find his textgate behaviour repulsive, and something eng cricket fans will remember for a long time… and most are glad that kp has finally gone, other cricket fans who whinge about missing him can tune in to the IPL … good riddance

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (February 8, 2014, 4:05 GMT)

I get where you're going jonnyboy82, but there will be experience around the top order with Cook & Bell. A rebuilding team benefits immensely from these two through team oriented encouragement. KP's most telling comments came when he said he couldn't count on the bottom order. Sure his ego is well known, but it reached new heights when trying to lead a coup against Flower, by trying to get support from team mates he's publicly said he doesn't rate! At his age his best run production is seen to be behind him, so his only 'asset' to the team is a hit and miss cameo every now and again, meanwhile constantly acting outside the team framework to get his own way, for his own benefit, not the teams. Bell & Cook came out of thumping's from McGrath & Warne and developed into serviceable players. Some of the younger ones won't be completely scarred by Johnson/Harris and will develop from the experience. Now there's one more spot in the order to allow a young bloke to gain match experience.

Posted by moonfax on (February 7, 2014, 22:26 GMT)

It's crazy that he has been dropped, attitude and disruptive behaviour can be managed and worked on if that was the reason for dropping him BUT you can't develop the natural cricket talent he has in many other players. Who knows,...Englands loss may become South Africa's Gain and then they can demolish english cricket further. He is a joy to watch bat and even to go to local grounds. I'll give up watching England matches for a while I think. Bring on the IPL, some explosive fireworks will be seen there.

Posted by   on (February 7, 2014, 21:55 GMT)

Victim of English revolution? or Tormentors in Chief, the Aussies? Aussies have clearly took England apart - left, right and centre and caused such a havoc, it would take at least few years to clear the debris. England are doing, exactly what Aus want them to do. Ditch your best player and build a new team that would take years. Aussies won this Ashes and have one hand on the next one. Leaving KP - is this bold and brave decision or silly and stupid?

Posted by MikeRo on (February 7, 2014, 15:48 GMT)

I think the fact that KP has left a series of unhappy employers behind him at Natal, Notts and Hampshire says a lot about the difficulty of managing him. Sure he has the talent, but obviously not the ability to work with others that a team game demands. If England want to rebuild the team, why would they want a disruptive influence in the dressing room. England should have jettisoned him after textgate.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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