Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen lambasts his ex-coach and teammates in his autobiography – the latest chapter in a sporting life that has rarely been far from controversy.
In the book, Pietersen says former team director Andy Flower allowed a “bullying” culture to develop in the England squad, with the bowlers making the batsmen’s lives a misery if they messed up.
But it is hard to imagine that such a strong personality could have been cowed by this “bullying”. Pietersen is a sportsman who gives as good as he gets.
He is still smarting from his sacking eight months ago after England were demolished 5-0 in the Ashes series in Australia – but the 34-year-old has not given up hope of adding to his 104 test caps in the future.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said he had been sacked because it wanted to create a culture in which captain Alistair Cook could be sure he had the support of all of his teammates, “with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other”.
Pietersen’s departure was not surprising. In 2012, during the test series against South Africa, he issed a public apology after sending what he described as “provocative texts” criticising England captain Andrew Strauss to friends in the opposition team. His punishment was to be dropped from the third test.
Pietersen was captain of England’s test and one-day international teams from August 2008 to January 2009. He resigned after falling out with coach Peter Moores.
Pietersen was born in South Africa, but was eligible to play for England because he has an English mother.
He was not alone. Pietersen’s teammates at the 2013 test series in England, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior, were also born in South Africa. So was Andrew Strauss. In total, there were eight South Africans in the English team squad.
Although he has had his ups and downs as a batsman, Pietersen’s talent has never been in doubt.
Across all formats – tests, one-day internationals and twenty20s – he has scored more runs than any other England batsman ever.
In historical terms, he is second only to Alistair Cook in the number of Test runs (8,181) he has scored, but his average of 47 runs per test puts him some way behind such greats as Wally Hammond and Len Hutton.
Curiously, the batsman he most remembles – in terms of tests played, runs scored and average scores – is Geoff Boycott.
He is described by former England captain Mike Atherton in the Times as “one of the finest batsmen to have pulled on an England shirt in the modern game… a match winner who entertained the crowds and was feared by the opposition as all too few England batsmen have been in recent times”.
In his taste for outlandish hairstyles, Pietersen is more like a Premier League footballer than a cricketer.
The peroxide blond streak that graced the centre of his head during the 2005 Ashes series was famously described as the “dead skunk” look.
Pietersen is married to the model and former Liberty X singer Jessica Taylor, with whom he has a four-year-old son, Dylan.