Julian Knight: The Emperor's New Clothes (19/08/12)

Kevin Pietersen needed taking down a peg or two. Not so. Our writer says he's the victim of workplace bullying

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Bullying can take many forms, and its victims aren't always meek or socially awkward. Sometimes a victim can seemingly have everything – huge wealth, unnatural talent and a beautiful wife. Kevin Pietersen MBE, for all his bling and brashness, is just such a victim. He has been ejected from the England cricket team, possibly never to return, following a campaign that makes the Borgias look like honest conciliators.

Derided by team mates openly in their autobiographies – no fines or bans for breaking the omerta of the dressing room for Graeme Swann – KP is then publicly lampooned on social media by a hanger-on who is egged on by "team" mates.

This is excused as banter but is really the old schoolyard habit of taking someone down a peg or two. If you were in a workplace where colleagues had gone public with criticism and then castigated you on Twitter you could probably claim workplace bullying. A jealous clique has set about, it seems, undermining KP, and you do that most effectively in English team sport by taking the piss.

KP is used to dressing-room banter, being South African, but is he used to this English trait of knocking those whose panache makes them stand out? Where does banter stop and bullying commence? I'd argue the Twitter account crossed that line.

England's much lauded captain, Andrew Strauss, has been captured by this clique. Some seemingly unpleasant texts sent in a foreign language by KP about Strauss were the final straw, but really a captain should be a bigger man than that. The great 1990s and 2000s Australia team was famously riven with loathing – Shane Warne and Steve Waugh apparently barely spoke but they still produced the best cricket, arguably, the world has ever seen.

OK, Pietersen is what we'd call in the north a bit of a "gobshite", but what Team England should understand is that his brashness may well be insecurity, his bling may reflect his cultural rootlessness. KP is, by a country mile, the finest batsman I have ever seen play for England and he has gone too soon.

Julian Knight is a personal finance editor and author of 'Cricket for Dummies' (Wiley)

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