Beyond mud-flinging, Kevin Pietersen reveals sorry tale of Jonathan Trott's neglect

Trott felt guilty as hell and he was back in that dark place again

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The Independent Online

Beyond all the sound and the fury and the mud-slinging about Andy Flower, the “Mood Hoover”, the small details tell the story, just like they always do. Kevin Pietersen takes us to Hobart’s Blundstone Arena, in November last year, for the second Ashes warm-up match, against Australia A. England are 250 for 0 towards the end of a first day which has left Jonathan Trott on edge, having done nothing more than sit around in his pads waiting to bat. “It’s evening, the energy levels are a bit low and the wicket is cut up,” Pietersen tells us. “You don’t send Trotty in now.” But Pietersen relates how Flower wanted him tested and at the crease if a wicket falls.

“‘Do you want a nightwatchman?’ Flower asks. ‘Yeah, of course I want a nightwatchman,’ Trott replies. Flower winces. Trotty had personally disappointed him.”’

Flower works his way around the batsmen, asking each to bat in the encroaching dusk and receiving the same reply until he reaches those who seemed too young to say no. Joe Root capitulates. No one did bat. Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry batted the day out. “But Trott felt guilty as hell. He was back in the dark place again,” Pietersen says.

 

The problem with testimony like this is the bias. He and Trott are compatriots, both in the same camp of what Pietersen describes in his autobiography as “the batters v bowlers environment” in which the latter give out stick all day long. But the picture he paints is just too detailed to leave us with anything but the sense that the environment contributed to Trott’s departure from the last winter’s Ashes, his mental strength shredded to pieces.

The episode on a pitch in Bangladesh is the most vivid story: Trott, at deep square leg, reaching such breaking point with the ridicule and rollickings over the misfields – “come on, for f***’s sake, what the f*** are you doing?” – that he screams straight back: “Will you f* off? Who the f* do you think you are?” You only have to spend time in Trott’s company and hear him talk about the game to know how uncharacteristic that was.

There are others. The story of the bumper that Trott received from Mitchell Johnson in the subsequent first Test at Brisbane, shattering the fledgling self-belief that an early four off Ryan Harris had engendered in Trott. The sight of Trott before the last ODI of 2013 at Southampton, visibly upset as he warmed up. Pietersen tells Ashley Giles, England’s limited-overs coach, he must send him home and, though Giles initially questions the player’s assessment – “no, he wants to play,” he says – there was a conversation between coach and player and “Trotty disappeared,” as Pietersen puts it. This is an England which has lived the Marcus Trescothick experience in the raw and knows all about him cowering in the Dixons store at Heathrow’s Terminal 3, unable to board a flight for an overseas match. “If Giles knew Trott was having a bad time, Flower should have known,” Pietersen writes.

It is a dangerous business, attempting from fragments of testimony to conclude why Trott could not go on, but everything points to the hard, cold place that England had become. Trott’s incredibly understated and moving interview with Ian Ward on Sky Sports last spring included his description of breakfast at the team hotel on the Ashes tour – unable to make eye contact with those around him. “I would sit alone, away from the guys, with a cap over my head, because I didn’t know how I would be, going to the cricket ground again. I would end up going back to my room.”

It is hard not to wince at Pietersen’s description of Flower approaching him after Trott has gone home. “I want to shake your hand. I should have listened to you,” is Pietersen’s narrative of what the coach said, when it was too late. And though some of his logic seems flawed – such as Pietersen’s unrealistic belief that Flower should have dispensed with squad rules and allowed Trott to have his wife, Abi, and daughter, Lily, with him before the rest of the players’ families were permitted – it is difficult not to consider a nod at his wisdom on the mental health of his friend.

Trott’s description of how England told him he could be signed off for three weeks if he wishes – like a visit to the GP, as he has described it – takes us far from the psychiatric help offered in other fields of sport. Pietersen’s testimony provokes the thought of how that tour might have been for him if a psychiatrist like Dr Steve Peters, who has worked with our cyclists, athletes and footballers, had been in the camp.

It only took one visit to Peters for Trott to know that he could put him on firm ground again. “I’d found someone who understood me,” Trott has said of their first encounter. “Someone I could speak to. I called Abi and I just said, ‘I’ll be fine now’.”

English cricket may pick over the allegations of a bullying, controlling culture which Pietersen raises. The wider world may perhaps conclude that this is the hubris which can beset any team which begins believing its own publicity. But in the margins of an autobiography which has delivered more intelligence than we expected is the story of how a player became broken and found no one to pick him up.

KP: The Autobiography is  published by Sphere

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