London: Andrew Strauss has said English cricket could be damaged by the “madness” surrounding the publication of Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography.
As Pietersen’s book went on general sale yesterday after a welter of revelations and counter-claims, former England captain Strauss said he was concerned by the impact the accusations have on current skipper Alastair Cook and his side.
Strauss, Pietersen’s successor as England captain, had his own well-documented problems with the South Africa-born batsman.
In particular, there was the incident which saw Pietersen send text messages critical of Strauss to opposition South Africa players during England’s home series with the Proteas in 2012.
Strauss retired soon afterwards and Pietersen was banished from the England side for three months.
Former Middlesex captain Strauss who, believing he was off-air, used a particularly obscene epithet to describe Pietersen while commentating for Sky television in July, said Thursday he was dismayed by the controversy generated by his old team-mate’s book.
“A lot of this that’s going on at the moment is madness,” Strauss told Sky.
“There’s been a lot of rumour, innuendo and opinion. I prefer to stick with the facts.
“All this tit-for-tat stuff, I don’t think really helps the England cricket team.”
One of the main accusations in Pietersen’s book is that senior England bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, assisted by wicketkeeper Matt Prior, operated a “bullying” culture where they demanded apologies from fielders who made mistakes, but only if they were not in their own clique.
However, Strauss added: “The victim here really isn’t Kevin Pietersen, or (former coach) Andy Flower or Prior or anyone; it’s actually the England cricket team and Alastair Cook and (returning coach) Peter Moores who’ve got to try to take the side forward.
“That, to me, is the disappointing thing about this whole episode.”
Strauss acknowledged that Pietersen – sensationally axed by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) following the team’s 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia concluded in January — had played some of “England’s most memorable innings” and been one of the team’s “finest players”.
However, Strauss was unhappy with Pietersen’s criticisms of Prior and Flower, saying both multiple Ashes-winners had put the emphasis on a “team first” culture.
“Andy Flower is a guy of complete integrity. If you look at [his] record as coach, it’s second to none.
“That idea that the team should come first was central to what we did, and something Andy Flower was very conscious of and protective over.
“Anyone who was testing that would be dealt with accordingly, and rightly so.”
Earlier, Pietersen said he could yet return to England duty if ECB chairman Giles Clarke quit.
It is hard to imagine the circumstances in which Pietersen, England’s all-time leading run-scorer, might make an international return — not least because he did not play County Championship cricket for Surrey last season.
But the 34-year-old has not given up hope.
“What would have to happen for me to be recalled by England?” Pietersen asked in an interview with the London Evening Standard. “Clearly, the boss would have to go.
“Clarke would have to go, and I’ve been hearing that could happen in the next few months.”
Thursday also saw former South Africa captain Graeme Smith join ex-Australia skipper Ricky Ponting in supporting Pietersen’s comments regarding “bullying” in the field.
“Some of the stuff that he touches on in his book I certainly can believe,” Smith said in an interview with Johannesburg-based radio station Highveld FM.
“Having played against them we always used to say if we could get a win or get ahead, that they would turn on each other,” added the former batsman, who retired earlier this year.
The ECB have steadfastly declined to respond to Pietersen’s autobiography and they had no comment to make regarding his comments about Clarke.