'Fragile' England hurt by schedule - Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen has blamed England's schedule for the side's disappointing performance in Australia.
As well as losing the first three Tests of the series, and with them the Ashes, England have seen two senior players, Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann, leave the tour. Pietersen, who has not made a century in the series, suggested the demands of back-to-back Ashes series had left England jaded and "a bit fragile".
"I think people shouldn't forget, and it's never been done before, that guys have got to go and endure 10 back-to-back Ashes Test matches," Pietersen told Sky Sports.
"I've been told that a number of Olympic athletes go into some sort of post-Olympic depression or a negative frame of mind - and I'm not saying we're in a depression or a negative frame of mind - but after you've competed at such a level, post that competition, mentally you're a bit fragile. To play an Ashes then another Ashes, and for us being away from home, it's a tough gig.
"It's been an incredibly pressurised situation. Playing back-to-back Ashes series and being away for the second leg, and not starting in the manner that we are accustomed to ... it's been incredibly difficult."
Pietersen also dismissed criticism he had received for the manner of his dismissals in the series. Pietersen has twice being caught pulling, twice flicking into a trap set for him at midwicket, once on the long-on boundary and, in the first innings in Melbourne, bowled attempting a slog across the line. Geoff Boycott, the former England opener whose Test run tally Pietersen has overtaken during this match, labelled him "a mug" and called for him to be dropped.
But Pietersen defended his dismissal in the first innings in Melbourne, insisting he was batting with the tail and perished in a desire to boost the "team cause".
"This game is a great leveller," Pietersen said. "If you start believing people when they say you're great it's going to hurt you. If you start believing people when they call you a mug that's also going to hurt you.
"I know it [his first-innings dismissal at the MCG] is a bit of a talking point. I don't know what the numbers are on our tail, but as soon as [Tim] Bresnan got out, I was under the impression that I had to do all the scoring and take all the strike.
"Look, I get out for nought, I get nailed. I get out for 70 ... I was playing for the team's cause to try and score as many runs as possible as quick as possible because I knew I was going to have to do it.
"Australia have bowled incredibly well with great plans and sometimes you've just got to say 'well done'. I was a bit fortunate on a couple of occasions, but that's what happens. I've been unfortunate on a couple of occasions on this trip as well. But I call it the cycle of life. These things happen. You win some and you lose some. If you take all the good days you've got to take the bad days with it as well.
"We just want to try and salvage some pride. We want to try and turn things around."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo