KP: The Autobiography October 6, 2014

KP book 'a work of fiction' - Swann

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Pietersen takes aim at Flower and Prior

Graeme Swann dismissed Kevin Pietersen's autobiography as "a work of fiction" as the backlash began against one of the most controversial books in cricket history.

"I expected it to be the biggest work of fiction since Jules Verne and that seems to have happened," Swann said.

Swann's criticism came at Lord's at the NatWest OSCAs, which recognise service in grassroots cricket, and they brought much laughter from an audience which seemed well in tune with the ECB's version of history.

Matt Prior has been one of the players to come in for the fiercest criticism in KP: The Autobiography. Pietersen claims Prior played a key part in instilling a feeling of fear and bullying among the England team alongside former coach Andy Flower, who also comes in for withering appraisal.

"The one thing will say. I immediately realised it was codswallop when I read the character assassination of Matt Prior," said Swann. "Tragically I don't think Kev realises the one person who fought tooth and nail to keep him in the side is the one person he is now assassinating: Matt Prior.

"Kevin has been quite clever because the guys still playing he has left alone and he hopes to get back in again one day," Swann said. "He has picked on people who he thinks can't answer back."

He dismissed Pietersen's repeated insistence that there was a culture of bullying in the England dressing room.

"If that was the case a lot of people would have flagged it up before. We had a magnificent team ethos and team spirit until Mitchell Johnson took his blindfold off and then it all fell apart.

"It was strange to watch my team-mates this summer, all those people I'd bullied all those years. I'd have loved to have been out there giving them Chinese burns."

A more serious assessment was made by Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket and the prime instigator in Pietersen's removal. "What I do know is there's been no formal or informal complaint about bullying," he said.

Prior has promised to answer the accusations Pietersen has made against him in his autobiography, saying it is "sad" to hear the former England batsman call him a "bad influence" and question his team ethic.

The attack by Pietersen, repeatedly referring to Prior by his "Big Cheese" nickname during a chapter dedicated to the subject, is among the most damning ever made by one player about another.

Prior, who was recalled to the Test team at the start of the summer before withdrawing due to his worsening Achilles injury, took to Twitter to acknowledge he was aware of the claims, attempted a touch of humour and then added he would have his "right to reply" when the time was right.

"After this morning, I'm looking forward to reading the full kp book. Might bully my kids into getting it for me for Xmas!!''

"Obvs sad to see the accusations against me this am and I WILL have my right of reply! However today is not the day and Twitter is not the place for it!

"Now back to my Achilles rehab and learning to walk again! have a great day everyone.''

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph shortly before the book became available, Pietersen said he had made his feelings about Prior known and in the book itself says that the image of him as the ultimate team man is not the truth.

"I went after Prior and said Prior shouldn't be in that side because he's a bad influence, a negative influence - he picks on players - and I've questioned Flower and the way he ran the team, Flower and Cook would have said you've got to get rid of this guy. He's back-stabbing, he's horrendous, he's bad for the environment.

"It's only Prior that I'd seriously have real issues with, because of how he was portrayed as a team man, the heart and soul of the dressing room, when he was getting up to the stuff he was getting up to. And the two sides of the coin where I was the bad guy and doing everything wrong."

Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, said that Pietersen's claims revealed the extent of the team's breakdown in Australia. In particular, he agreed with Pietersen's assessment that players being abused for fielding errors indicated a lack of respect between team-mates.

"It really tells you a lot about team spirit," he said, "always there when you're winning but always fades away when you're losing.

"A lot of the stuff I've read this afternoon, I've nodded at and agreed with ... about shouting at players in the outfield. Team spirit is about respect ... what happened in the end was that the respect had gone, between Kevin and his team-mates.

"Once you lose that respect, and then start losing games of cricket, I'm afraid the wheels can only come off."

The ECB has declined to comment as yet, either about Monday's interview or the autobiography itself, on the basis that the governing body had not received an advance copy.

A spokesman said on Monday morning: "The ECB has still not received the book, despite requests to the publishers - and until we see it, it is going to be very difficult to comment on anything in it."

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