His language may have been coarse, but Andrew Strauss was voicing a common view of Kevin Pietersen
On reflection, Andrew Strauss might have chosen more decorous language, whether speaking privately or publicly. But his comments about his former colleague, Kevin Pietersen, which unintentionally spoilt the party at Lord’s on Saturday, reveal much about the deep strength of feeling in the English game.
In describing Pietersen as an “absolute c**t” in an off-air conversation with his fellow Sky commentator Nick Knight, Strauss was not issuing an exclusive opinion. He thought that he and Knight were having a private chinwag during a break in the match between MCC and the Rest of the World but it was picked up by a live microphone, as these things often are. Initially it was heard only by viewers of Fox Sports in Australia but soon after naturally went viral on the internet.
The disdain inherent in the assessment, although followed by an embarrassed apology, brooks no debate and offers no room for manoeuvre. Strauss was merely echoing what so many, and probably most people once or still connected with the England team, feel about Pietersen.
It is clear from the tone that Strauss’s feelings have hardened. In the summer of 2012 he seemed to have come to terms with Pietersen’s behaviour, which to those on the outside seemed unforgivable.
Pietersen betrayed Strauss, who was then captain, by texting members of the South Africa team, England’s opponents in a Test series. It was widely reported that he had referred to his captain as a doos, a particularly insulting Afrikaans word.
In his subsequent autobiography, Strauss told how Pietersen visited him at home to apologise after admitting sending what he called “provocative text messages”. Strauss wrote: “I accepted his apology and hold no grudges against him. The far greater issue, even at the time of the Test match, was one of trust.”
During conversations at the time, Strauss was relaxed about Pietersen’s return to the team and insisted that he was largely a good influence in the dressing room. There was certainly no use of the dreaded C-word or anything close to it.
But then came the events of last winter in Australia, when Pietersen yet again became isolated from his colleagues, and was subsequently sacked.
Strauss, retired more than a year by then, was not directly involved but he will have heard precisely what went on in the dressing room. He will have heard that Alastair Cook, his successor as captain, had run out of patience and sympathy with Pietersen.
Indeed, Cook was profoundly affronted by what Pietersen had done to Strauss in 2012 and, although he was willing to have him in the England team subsequently, it is beginning to emerge that he never truly forgave him for his behaviour then.
After Saturday’s unfortunate events, which rather overshadowed what was reported to be a lovely occasion at Lord’s to mark the ground’s bicentenary, Strauss had no wriggle room.
Pietersen’s usual, firmest, if not only ally, Piers Morgan, the TV chat show host, swiftly went on to Twitter to traduce his pal’s critics.
He tweeted: “If KP called Strauss a ‘c..t’ on air, cricket media destroy him. But they’re all ‘feeling sorry’ for ‘poor Straussy’. #Hypocrites”
Morgan may have a point, though Pietersen has had a rather more balanced press than both men concede.
If, however, there is an element of truth in what Morgan said about the differing attitudes to Strauss and Pietersen, he might for once have stopped to think and ask himself why this might be so.
Pietersen was given a handsome ovation when he went out to bat at Lord’s on Saturday, perhaps in memory of some of the great innings he played for England. He repaid it with a fairly crass piece of batting.
Although he has been sacked, Pietersen continues to insist that he would like to play for England again, presumably rather than knock about the world’s Twenty20 leagues. It is not going to happen and, whatever else, Strauss’s comments explain why.
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