The relish with which Kevin Pietersen informed his 1.96m Twitter followers on Tuesday afternoon about the expiry of his confidentiality agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board reinforced the suspicion that his imminent autobiography will contain a fair amount of score-settling.
Since that agreement was signed as part of the termination of his England contract in February Pietersen has been forced to keep his powder reasonably dry, although there have been hints of what may lie in store both in his own newspaper columns and from the mouth of Piers Morgan, his most voluble supporter.
There is plenty of chatter in cricketing circles about which KP foes have the most reason to be wary ahead of next week’s publication – and which names should be checked first in the index. Here’s a possible top 10 hitlist …
Pietersen’s head coach for the last five years of his England career, although he had been batting coach before that as assistant to Peter Moores – and Pietersen provided a clear hint that he was not a big fan when he demanded the removal of Flower as well as Moores in the row that led to his sacking as England captain in early 2009. The pair are known to have clashed again over Pietersen’s proposed retirement from one-day international cricket in the spring of 2012, Flower’s view on Pietersen’s reintegration after the textgate row always seemed slightly sceptical and the two southern Africans are said to have had one climactic battle in the dog days of England’s Ashes debacle last winter. It will be a surprise if Pietersen does not have some views on the contrast between his defenestration after the Ashes tour and Flower’s appointment after his resignation as coach to a new and influential role as technical director of elite cricket.
This one is less predictable. Pietersen was keen to stress in the build-up to his 100th Test in Brisbane last November that he had made peace with his former England captain after hurting him so badly by sending texts about him to friends in the South Africa team during the 2012 series, which was to prove Strauss’s last. “I had lunch with Straussy yesterday,” he said. But having gone public with some details of the pair’s relationship in his own autobiography which was published last year, Strauss revealed more than he would have liked in describing Pietersen as a “complete cunt” during an off-microphone comment in a match at Lord’s in July.
Pietersen has called on his last England captain to resign twice already this year, first in Test and then in one-day cricket. But it is the details of the disintegration of their relationship in Australia, and then of Cook’s role in the decision to sack Pietersen, that will be especially intriguing here. Morgan saved some of his fiercest criticism for Cook, describing him as “a gutless weasel” and claiming he lacked the courage to look Pietersen in the eye at the meeting in which he was sacked. One imagines Pietersen will be more measured than that.
The man with his hands on the gun, at least according to Morgan, who renamed him Downton Shabby with his old headline-writer’s flair. The former England wicketkeeper took over as managing director of England cricket from Hugh Morris during the Ashes tour and received the ultimate hospital pass of dealing with the Pietersen situation. His solution, after extensive debriefing with Flower, Cook and other senior members of the tour party, was to sack Pietersen, and he then put his head above the parapet to try to explain the decision, first in a BBC radio interview for which he was subsequently forced to apologise and then in the press conference at which Peter Moores was unveiled as Flower’s successor.
Confirmation that Pietersen has little time for Moores as a coach will fall firmly into the dog-bites-man category. But this is his chance to explain why – although it is hard to see anything that Moores has said in public that could have offended Pietersen, as he maintained a diplomatic silence following previous criticism and stressed when he was reappointed that “I never fell out with Kev”. Attacks along the lines of being an establishment man, and Flower’s favourite, seem the most likely.
That the former England wicketkeeper, and vice-captain, is currently on crutches after a major achilles operation is unlikely to spare him. It was Prior who telephoned Pietersen in an attempt to resolve his row with Strauss in 2012, the first move that led to reintegration under the captaincy of Cook. But it was also Prior who organised the meeting last December after the fourth Test defeat in Melbourne at which Pietersen felt sufficiently emboldened to let rip with his criticism of Flower, setting in chain the events that led to that final clash in Sydney, and ultimately the end of Pietersen’s international career. Morgan accused him of stabbing Pietersen in the back, and Pietersen then had some fun at his expense after Prior agreed in a question and answer session that he thought was private that the dressing room would be a better place without Pietersen. “Fewer Q&A sessions, more nets methinks,” Pietersen tweeted, referring to Prior’s poor batting form in the Ashes, and he continued to champion Jos Buttler as his replacement throughout the summer.
The Pietersen-Prior row came early in Swann’s move into the media following his retirement during the Ashes series and he tried to stay neutral, saying that Prior had been “naive” and Pietersen “childish”. He had already shown an unusual unwillingness to get involved by stating in his Sun column that he was “baffled” by the decision to sack Pietersen. Yet the pair had plenty of previous, with Swann among those thought by Pietersen to be behind the KP Genius fake Twitter account that highlighted his isolation in the dressing room in the summer of 2012. Swann has denied he was involved in the Twitter account, saying: “The KP parody account has nothing to do with me. It’s obvious, only one in four are funny.”
His columns in the Mail on Sunday in the stormy summer of 2012 made it clear, diplomatically, that the Lancastrian had little time for Pietersen’s posturing. They were to become team-mates again in India later that winter but there was always the feeling of an uneasy truce rather than being bosom buddies.
The chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board formed an unlikely double act with Pietersen in a conference suite near the swimming pool of a posh Colombo hotel when the rebel’s reintegration was announced at the end of the World Twenty20 in the autumn of 2012. He then presented Pietersen with a silver bat to recognise his run-scoring record during the 2013 Ashes series in England, and a silver cap before his 100th Test appearance in Brisbane later in the year. But Clarke was clearly involved in the decision to end his career, even if Downton played a more public role.
Again there is little doubting Pietersen’s loathing for the majority of the media whom he sees as having sided first with Strauss, and then with Cook, against him over the past few years. It is hard to see him wasting much time on low-profile scribes but it would be a surprise if more prominent commentators such as Geoffrey Boycott – now a Daily Telegraph stablemate but a frequent critic – and the BBC’s cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew, do not crop up in dispatches.