Andrew Strauss has spoken of the problems he encountered when trying to manage Kevin Pietersen, but has backed the batsman to be there when England need him in the upcoming Ashes series, assuming he is “committed” to the cause.
As a three-time urn winner as a player and a two-time victor as a captain, Strauss knows better than most about the pressures of facing the Baggy Green, as well as the complexities of leading individuals such as Pietersen.
Strauss’ retirement last summer came amid a high-profile blow-up with Pietersen regarding messages sent to opposition South African players, while Strauss this morning used his column in the Sunday Times to detail a number of other issues he claims to have faced with the 33-year-old.
Strauss wrote of Pietersen being “booked” for speeding in Australia two years ago, saying “it was another example of his individuality and shows his lust for approval doesn’t end on the cricket field”.
The former opening batsman added that planning meetings would “bore” Pietersen which caused “friction”, while saying that “within the team environment he was never comfortable when being forced to toe the team line.”
On the flip side, though, Strauss has seen Pietersen’s brilliance at close quarters, having shared a field with him for the majority of his 22 Test hundreds.
The first of those came in the 2005 Ashes victory as he clubbed a brilliant 158 in the final Test to regain the urn for England.
And that, according to Strauss, demonstrates just how dangerous a player the South Africa-born batsman can be, citing the pressure of the Ashes as something which motivates him.
“He knows as well as anyone that reputations can be forged and destroyed in those seven weeks,” Strauss said. “Alongside his outrageous innings at The Oval in 2005, his performances in Adelaide in 2006 and 2010 stand out. In Ashes Tests he averages 52.7 - more than three runs better than his overall average.
“If England find themselves seeking inspiration this summer, expect him to deliver.” Pietersen returned to the England side in all forms of the game last winter in India, suggesting a new approach after the problems which had blighted his relationship with Strauss.
“His ‘falling out’ with the team in the South Africa series was brought about by his interest in the IPL, a tournament tailor-made for his talents and personality, and by him losing his love for the England cricketing environment,” Strauss said.
Lesson well learnt
“Important lessons have been learnt over the past 12 months, by Pietersen, the ECB and his team-mates. It is to his great credit, as well as the rest of the team, that they have been able to move forward from the trials of last summer so adeptly.
“A fully fit, motivated and focused Kevin Pietersen is an immense asset to any side. If he intends to prove his commitment to English cricket over the next six months, then Australia had better look out.”