London: Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has spoken up in support of Kevin Pietersen's allegations of a "bullying" culture within the England team. Pietersen, in one of several controversial claims in his recently-published autobiography, accused England's senior bowlers and wicketkeeper Matt Prior of aggressively demanding apologies from team-mates not in their clique for any mistakes they made while fielding.
Ricky Ponting and Kevin Pietersen
Retired off-spinner Graeme Swann, one of the bowlers singled out by Pietersen, said Wednesday there was "absolutely no bullying" but Ponting, Australia's captain from 2004-11 supported the claims of England's all-time leading run-scorer. "We saw them doing it, (James) Anderson was always the same, and Swann," Ponting told the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. "
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."
Ponting was not involved in the two most recent Test series between the arch-rivals -- England's 2013 success and Australia's 2013/14 5-0 whitewash triumph on home spoil after which Pietersen was effectively sacked by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
However, the 39-year-old -- on the winning side in several Ashes series but the losing skipper in 2005, 2009 and 2010/11 -- insisted the 'bullying' observed by former England captain Pietersen had been evident for some time. - 'Implode pretty quickly' - "They had a lot of very good players that were able to achieve a lot of success as a team," Ponting said. "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."
Pietersen tweeted a link to Ponting's quotes on Twitter with the comment: "PLS READ THIS." Meanwhile Ponting said similar on-field calling out of team-mates would not be tolerated in the Australia side. "If a young bloke had dropped a catch and a bowler went off at him, that's just not acceptable," he said. "No one means to drop a catch, no one means to bowl a bad ball, no one means to play a bad shot. It just happens in a game and you have to accept it and move on," Ponting added.
Earlier, Michael Vaughan ridiculed a leaked ECB report into Pietersen's alleged misbehaviour during the Ashes whitewash in Australia. Among the 'offences' of which Pietersen was accused were "staring out the window" and "looking at his watch" during team meetings led by then coach Andy Flower. It also said he whistled after being dismissed in the final Test in Sydney, and told his team-mates to get thicker skins when they complained of criticism of their performance in tweets by his friend Piers Morgan, the television interviewer, when England were 4-0 down in the Ashes.
Embarrassingly for the ECB, the document also incorrectly spelt England captain Alastair Cook's name as "Alistair". Former England captain Vaughan derided the ECB document, telling Twitter he had "never read as much b------- in all my time".
Vaughan added: "Never laughed so much... England are 4-0 down in the Ashes and it's because of @piersmorgan tweet." The ECB insisted the email received by the Cricinfo website was not the official dossier compiled by Flower, criticised severely in Pietersen's book, but an internal email draft drawn up by their lawyers. South Africa-born Pietersen, 34, dismissed the email's contents on Tuesday by saying: "They couldn't even spell Cooky's name right. It is a joke. I am done with it."