Ricky Ponting has endorsed Kevin Pietersen’s claims of an unpleasant culture in recent England teams, and laid the blame for it with Andrew Strauss rather than Andy Flower.
Ponting, who captained Australia to three Ashes series defeats out of four between 2005 and 2011, claimed that England’s spectacular collapse to a 5-0 whitewash last winter did not surprise him, because of the divisions that had been papered over by previous success.
He named Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann, two of the dominant clique of senior bowlers referred to as bullies by Pietersen in his autobiography, as the worst offenders, and said that even the early departures of Jonathan Trott and Swann from the Ashes tour could have been foreseen.
“We saw them doing it – Anderson was always the same, and Swann,” said Ponting. “The pointing of fingers and you’d hear a few expletives if there was a misfield or a dropped catch. The guys who were doing it were the so-called leaders. That’s where the captain has got to come in, not wait and let little things turn into big things. That’s what it sounds like has happened in this England team.
“They had a lot of very good players that were able to achieve a lot of success as a team. But if you could just get inside of them and start pulling them apart, we always had a feeling they would implode pretty quickly and that’s what’s happened over the past 12 months.
“I wasn’t surprised with Trott, I wasn’t surprised with Swann retiring when he did. When the ship started to go down, he jumped off pretty quickly, and now all the Pietersen stuff.”
Pietersen tweeted a link to the quotes, which appeared in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph – not usually one of his favourite newspapers, especially as it shares copy with the Brisbane Courier Mail – with the remark: “PLS READ THIS.”
Shortly after that, he retweeted a comment by Michael Carberry, England’s opener in Australia and a former Hampshire team-mate, that “I’ve never had any issues with Kev. We have always got on well and still do.” That was in response to one of the points in the leaked document from the England and Wales Cricket Board which claimed that Pietersen had called Carberry “useless” and asked: “Aren’t there any better players at county level?”
Carberry has also been critical of the ECB since the Ashes tour, in a Hlcarpenter.com interview in March, when he said: “Through the tour, certainly, Kev was very helpful to me … In England’s position you want to retain that knowledge as much as you can”.
Carberry also expressed disappointment in Ashley Giles in that interview, but Pietersen tweeted his delight at Lancashire’s appointment of the former England one-day coach as the permanent successor to Peter Moores, which was confirmed on Wednesday.
That meant Giles would inevitably be asked about Pietersen at an Old Trafford press conference, and specifically his views on a bullying culture in the England dressing room. But he refused to be drawn.
“I don’t want to get sucked into it,” said Giles, a former team-mate as well as coach of Pietersen. “This is not the day to talk about Kev’s book.I played in the dressing room with Kev and got on very well with him, but similarly with those other guys as well. I coached them and never had any major issues with them, so that’s pretty much as much as much as I want to say.”
Giles described Pietersen as “a million-pound asset” in January when naming him in a 30-man squad for the World Twenty20 earlier this year – but conceded that now seems certain to be the last England squad in which he will ever be included.
“He would still consider himself to be a multimillion-pound asset, I’m sure, he’s that sort of player,” Giles added. “He’s the big show, if you like, but things have unfolded and he’s not going to play for England again by the looks of it. I’m sure it’s disappointing for him but everyone has to move on.”
He laughed off a suggestion that Lancashire might even be interested in signing Pietersen, who is a free agent after his release by Surrey. “Freddie [Flintoff] and KP?” said Giles, having confirmed that he would be keen to talk to Flintoff to see if he wants to extend his surprise Twenty20 comeback. “Get Harmy [Steve Harmison, another member of the 2005 Ashes-winning team] back in the gym as well.”
Flintoff is expected to confirm shortly that he will play in Australia’s Big Bash this winter, probably with Brisbane.