England news September 28, 2013

Strauss reveals Pietersen troubles

ESPNcricinfo staff

Andrew Strauss has revealed for the first time how he feared his England team would be undermined by Kevin Pietersen's antipathy towards those running English cricket long before matters came to a head in a home series against South Africa in 2012.

The fallout from the ECB's refusal to sanction Pietersen's wish to retire from 50-over cricket, and also be free to play more IPL, was seen in a long-running furore centred upon a series of disenchanted text messages sent by Pietersen to South African players.

Strauss has now admitted that he suspected "treachery" as the affair so dominated the summer and ensured that what should have been a celebration of Strauss' 100th Test at Lord's instead became a frustrated climax to his career. He retired "tired and generally hacked off with life".

In his new autobiography, Driving Ambition, which is being serialised in the Daily Mail, Strauss tells of how he took Pietersen aside at a golf day ahead of the South Africa series to discuss his state of mind. "I had heard some troubling rumours he might be preparing to separate himself from English cricket after a further attempt to get the ECB to yield ground had failed," he writes.

"At a golf day a few days before the first Test, I took him to one side to ask what was going on. It was clear he was far from happy. I challenged him to think about his legacy and the goals he wanted to reach with the rest of his career. Unfortunately, we were interrupted and it is fair to say that I did not know at the time quite how close he was to the edge."

England suffered a heavy defeat in the opening Test and the Pietersen situation worsened in the week of the second Test at Headingley. "On the practice days, he seemed completely withdrawn, as though he was consciously distancing himself from the team, and on the first day of the game itself he seemed determined to let everyone in the ground know just how unhappy he was.

"As captain, I could not let it go and I called him into a back room to make it clear his behaviour was unacceptable. I was shocked by his lack of contrition and his apparent hostility towards me. It felt as though he was trying to goad me into a confrontation. It was almost as if he was trying to engineer an excuse to turn his back on the team."

Despite his issues, Pietersen played one of his finest Test innings at Headingley; 149 that helped England get a foothold in the series. But in his press conference that followed, he expressed his difficulties and suggested he was about to take some decisions that "would make me very happy".

"I was unsurprised to then hear Kevin had given a disturbing press conference following what was a thrilling drawn Test match. What greatly puzzled me, though, was his comment that, 'It's tough being me, playing for England', seemingly implying he was being treated badly by his team-mates in the dressing room. For me, he had crossed the line. He seemed to be at best destabilising and at worst undermining our carefully cultivated team environment."

Strauss describes the draining effect Pietersen's behaviour had on his captaincy. "I feel incredibly tired, as though I have simply run out of energy - I have nothing more to give," he said. "I am also wallowing in a rising tide of sadness. This is not the way I wanted my England career to end."

Pietersen was dropped for the final Test at Lord's but the issue marred Strauss's 100th Test. He retired following the defeat and admitted his "unbelievable frustration" at the manner in which his carer ended.

"This is the last time I will make this walk as an England cricketer, although I am far too frustrated, tired and generally hacked off with life for it to be a rousing emotional affair," he writes. "I find my space in the far corner of the room, near the television set, and sit down. I pack my helmet in my kitbag and then bury my head in my hands. For 10 minutes I sit, unable to move."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • martin on September 30, 2013, 13:55 GMT

    Shame that Strauss has chosen to dig this up again so soon after his retirement. First, he will have been paid well for his autobiography, probably knew that the KP saga would be a big selling point especially as it is still fresh in the memory. Second, the Daily Mail will have paid him to serialise it and probably only did so because they wanted the KP story. Third, Strauss obviously waited until the Ashes were over before bringing it all up again. This suggests he had one eye on his potential future ECB employment and didn't want to upset anyone by selling something to the press while the series was still ongoing. That would have undermined a carefully cultivated team culture in Cooke's team I suppose. It all suggests a slightly Machiavellian planned approach at not wanting to upset his chances with the ECB, while making some money from his side of the story.

    Interesting, but if Pietersen behaved as above, he'd be hung out to dry.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    Strauss is an exceptional man, he never did anything untoward as a cricketer. Absolute professional. He commands respect. A true gentleman, I hope he has some role for the ECB.

  • Tom on September 30, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    Strauss was a fine player and an excellent captain; I don't understand the anger towards him in these comments. Not that his record compared to KP's is really all that relevant here, but it's worth noting that when England were doing the captaincy hokey-cokey in 2008-9 they had very similar batting averages and Strauss a higher number of runs. He was a spectacular batsman in his early career, too.

    Strauss may not be blameless in the issue but he was largely a victim caught in the crossfire between bureaucracy and ego, in the most challenging series of his captaincy no less. That a player and captain of his calibre and experience was hounded into retirement over this issue was and remains disgraceful, and he is absolutely entitled to have his say. He's handled the whole thing with dignity and in this passage doesn't really tell us anything that we didn't already know. In any case it's surely better to have the facts than relying on rumour and innuendo.

  • Charles on September 30, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    I do not think it is a shame that Strauss retired so early and whilst Alastair Cook has done a fantstic job I would have liked to have Strauss captaining the side certainly for this summer . I do not think that this affects team moral or any of Strauss's ambititions for the ECB job as the players and the management all know exactly what happened and the language in the book seems very measured. The explosive book will be KP's when he decides to write one !!! I hope the SA player who leaked the texts will be named but I guess we will know the name and the content of those texts about 1 week before the 1st test of the South African series next winter !!!

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    In hindsight as a proud South African, I am happy he chose to represent England in international cricket.

  • Brady on September 30, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    @ jmcilhinney on (September 30, 2013, 5:22 GMT) : if what you describe is accurate then the end result was ironic indeed. Egalitarianism to preserve team harmony? Didn't work out so well.

  • John on September 30, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    @OneEyedAussie on (September 30, 2013, 2:49 GMT), those are too different issues or, rather one issue and one non-issue. KP WAS allowed to pursue his IPL career providing that it did not interfere with his Test match duties. That's exactly what did happen. The first Test of the England summer was always too early for KP to be able to see out the IPL season and still be properly prepared to play that game. As for not being allowed to retire from 50-over cricket, the reason is quite plain. It was in the central contract that KP signed that if you wanted to be available for one form of limited-overs cricket then you had to be available for both. If the ECB were to waive that for KP then they couldn't refuse to do so for other players too. If they did that then they would run the risk of having players available for Test cricket for the prestige, T20 for the money and refusing to play 50-over cricket at all, thus basically killing off the format.

  • Ali on September 30, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    well andrew...

    i suppose it was Kevin who made fun of Kevin on twitter ...

    and it was kevin who leaked the text messages to SA players to the ECB .....

    yup that was all kevin ....

    Needless to say, it seems Andrew was completely unaware of the animosity of "certain" players who constantly bullied and made fun of kevin ....

    I guess the he had to be unaware, cuz he has totally refused to mention it .....

  • Simon on September 30, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    @Nicholas Horne -- huh? utterly baffled as to what in this article indicates a lack of grace or dignity on Strauss' part. Nothing here speaks to that one way or the other...

  • Brady on September 30, 2013, 2:49 GMT

    From an outsider's perspective, I still find it very difficult to understand why KP was not allowed to retire from ODI cricket and pursue his IPL career (providing that it did not interfere with his test match duties). Also fascinating is that Strauss appears to report only one attempt on his behalf to deal with KP's malcontent - although perhaps there will be more detail in the book. The insistence from some quarters that KP ended Strauss' career is beguiling - I would say that England massively overhyped themselves and then were subsequently humiliated by SA was the true culprit.