Buchanan slates Pietersen for selfish attitude

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The Independent Online

The Australian coach, John Buchanan, has branded Kevin Pietersen as a selfish player in the wake of England's three-day defeat in the fourth Test.

Buchanan accused Pietersen, who had resisted requests from the England hierarchy to bat at four before the team's second innings in Melbourne, of talking a far different game to the one he plays in.

"Pietersen certainly talks about himself as a team player but, personally, I don't see any evidence of that," said Buchanan after watching his side crush England by an innings and 99 runs, a victory that gives them a 4-0 lead in the series. "Obviously, I am not in their dressing room but I do look at him in the field quite a lot and he seems to distance himself quite a bit from the team.

"It may be where England want him to field, out on the boundary, but he's a good fieldsman, good in the ring. But it surprises me that he always seems to be distanced from the rest of the group. I wonder if the criticism of him is because he is different. Difference is important to the team dynamics, we have some different players in our team, but it's how that difference is managed I guess."

Pietersen's demeanour during the fourth Test was not that of a player who is happy with life. There were times when he appeared just to amble after the ball when it was hit into the deep and when batting he wore the look of a man who is fed up with the incompetence of those around him.

His belief in his own ability has not been lost on Ricky Ponting's side. At the start of the tour, the Australians referred to him as "The Ego", but during the series it has changed to "Figjam" - Fuck, I'm Good, Just Ask Me.

Players carry their disappointment in different ways, but Pietersen's seems to be as much about the way his team-mates are performing as the results. It is to be hoped that this did not influence his decision not to attend the team's Christmas lunch. Instead, he opted to dine at a nearby hotel with his fiancée, Jessica Taylor, and a couple of friends.

Pietersen's batting - 420 runs at an average of 60 - has been one of the few pluses to come out of the tour but his success has been somewhat undermined by his reluctance to move up the order to number four. In three of England's last four innings the South African-born 26-year-old has been left batting with the tail, a situation that has led to him throwing his wicket away in the pursuit of quick runs.

Batsmen hate giving their wicket away and getting out in such a manner will have done little to improve his state of mind. Undoubtedly, it would have encouraged him to ask the England hierarchy whether he could move up from five to four. "We've been trying to get him to bat at four, the position where a team's top batter should bat, but he feels very comfortable at five," said the England coach, Duncan Fletcher.

"We went along with this because it is wrong to ask people to do things they don't want to do when they are placed in tight situations. Then Kevin discussed with us that he was batting with the tail a lot and he wanted to bat four. We said: 'Are you sure you want to?' He said that he would rather do that than be caught with the tail that we've got at the moment."

A comment like that will not have gone down well with the likes of Matthew Hoggard, who gives it his all every time he walks out on to the field. And you wonder why there are rumours that there are divisions in the England dressing room?

Buchanan was equally flummoxed by Pietersen's position in the order and the message it sent to his side. "I thought England lost the Adelaide Test in their first innings because they laboured over scoring 550," he said. "They played cautiously. It was an approach that didn't suggest a team that is going to play with aggression, play with belief in themselves, challenge the opposition, take risks and back themselves in any situation.

"There's one player who does that and that's Pietersen, so it was always an interesting decision to bat he and Flintoff at five and six. They could have challenged the Australian bowling attack, taken some initiative and set up their innings.

"It surprised me [that Pietersen was batting at five] but England have their own reasons for doing what they have done. It didn't come off in England's second innings but he's a very good player, there's no doubt about that. He's their strike power, the man with the ability to turn a game on its head. I would have expected Pietersen to be constantly chipping away at Duncan Fletcher about where he bats."

Fletcher defended his players, who have been accused in some quarters of not trying and, in a rare moment of contriteness, admitted that he had made mistakes. "I am very happy with the team's fight," he said. "They tried to the best of their ability. If you went into the changing room at the end of the game you would see how disappointed they are. They were despondent, as they were in Perth when the Ashes were lost. I can assure you that players do not go back to the dressing room only worrying about whether they have let themselves down. They do feel that they have let the fans down. Accepting defeat is difficult.

"I admit that we have made some mistakes. We have made some selection errors with the team and we will reflect on them when we get back from Australia and try to make sure that we do not do it again."