Kevin Pietersen book review: KP leaves nothing to the imagination
Sam Rogers reviews Kevin Pietersen's new autobiography, KP
When it comes to stories about Kevin Pietersen, things rarely drift under the media radar.
The latest twist in the ongoing saga that is ‘The KP Story’ involves the self-titled autobiography ‘KP’, which charts his fall from English cricketing icon to exiled former player.
None of the key names escape scrutiny as the 34-year-old waxes lyrically about coaches and players both currently involved with the England and also retired, paying particular attention to former England coach Andy Flower and former wicket-keeper Matt Prior, whom he describes as ‘a bully, with an uncontrollable ego.”
Contrary to most of what has been written about the book in the build-up to its release on Thursday, Pietersen does not go blameless throughout. In fact, he spends a fair chunk of the time talking about his regrets in the way he acted and behaved and the things he said, which may not have endeared him to either his team-mates or the team management.
What he does do though is refuse to accept what he believes to be the “bullying” he has been on the receiving end of, culminating in the scapegoating of Pietersen as the sole cause for England’s horrendous 5-0 Ashes whitewash last winter. Of course, it is just one side of the story but despite harbouring ambitions to once again don the Three Lions shirt and represent his adopted country, Pietersen knows the revelations won’t do his chances any good so isn’t just saying things to create drama. He focuses on a number of themes throughout which cross-over throughout the book.
Pietersen on Andy Flower
The former Zimbabwe Test batsman was at the helm throughout perhaps the most successful period in English cricket for generations but Pietersen describes Flower as sour and dour, ruling with a culture of fear, labelling Flower “The Mood Hoover”. Pietersen first had run-ins with Flower when the latter was number two to current coach Peter Moores, during the former Lancashire coach’s rather disastrous first term in the hot-seat. Perhaps the difference in their approaches to batting pushed them apart. Flower had no sympathy for Pietersen’s knack of getting out to inexplicable shots when in the South African’s eyes, he was playing to his style that for the most part paid off. Pietersen mentions how Flower admits he handled Jonathon Trott poorly after the Warwickshire batsman left the Ashes tour after just one Test, while also deeming Steven Finn as “unselectable” when he was not long prior, one of the best bowlers in world cricket. Pietersen also describes how his relationship with Flower reached a messy end when they had an argument before the Sydney Test match, ending with a few home truths being dashed about before Pietersen says Flower turned and said, “I hope you score some runs in this Test match”. It would be the last match Pietersen played in an England shirt.
Pietersen on Prior and the culture of bullying
Pietersen talks a lot about a ‘culture of bullying’ that took place in the team, with senior players berating certain players for misfields and dropped catches, to the extent of belittling them. He also describes a ‘clique’ that formed in the dressing room, involving Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad and to a lesser extent James Anderson. England perhaps became victims of their own success, becoming quite an unlikable side. As often happens when a team enjoy a lot of success quickly, England became arrogant in their approach while behind the scenes becoming less united as a squad. It is Prior though in particular with whom he takes umbridge, describing the Sussex gloveman ‘The big cheese’ and having an ‘uncontrollable ego’. Unlike the Prior many have seen in the public and described as the ‘heartbeat of the team’, Pietersen labels Prior ‘a bully’, ‘a teacher’s pet’ and ‘a backstabber’ before noting he was like ‘a dairylea triangle thinking he was brie’. Perhaps the most questionable part of Pietersen’s account is his problem with Prior, given after all that he was seemingly at the forefront of getting KP back into the side after the ‘textgate’ saga. Perhaps it was Prior’s urge to lead that irked Pietersen and rubbed him up the wrong way, but after Strauss’ departure there were few personalities big enough to galvanise a team hurting from losing their number one status. Prior was one of those. As with Flower, Pietersen had plenty in common with Prior but none of it served well enough to keep their relationship from ultimately turning sour. The lowest point of the ‘bullying’ for Pietersen was the twitter incident which left him by his own admission ‘broken’. The problem surrounded a parody account on the popular social media site ‘@KPGenius’ which was revealed to have been set up by a man called Richard Bailey, who was rumoured to be a close friend of Stuart Broad. The problems arose when it was revealed a number of the players including Broad followed and even retweeted posts from the account. While it was alleged by Pietersen that some of the players in fact were either feeding information to Bailey or indeed tweeting on the account’s behalf, it has yet to be proved. Either way it is hardly a good way to be treating a team-mate.
Pietersen on the IPL
Perhaps the most contentious issue with Pietersen was his fascination with the Indian Premier League (IPL) since it’s inception in 2008. KP describes it as a ‘Bruce Willis blockbuster’ that he felt the ECB were scared of, such was their opposition to the tournament. While many have described Pietersen as a mercenary who’s fondness to the IPL lays on foundations of the potential financial riches rather than his development as a player. His view is of course wholly different. The adrenaline of playing in front of tens of thousands of fans at every match is hard to replicate in English domestic cricket, while the experience of playing alongside perhaps a who’s who of the world’s greatest cricketers. The Tendulkars, Warnes, Husseys, McCullums, Dravids and Gayles of this world don’t congregate in the same place all that often, least not for playing purposes anyway. Pietersen felt his Engand team-mates struggled with jealousy after a number of players were overlooked when the IPL auction rolled around. The players looked disentrested at Pietersen’s stories from India, much like people are when their friend comes back from holiday and talks about the really interesting couple they met. He believes though ‘English players want the IPL but are so afraid of not being selected they wont rattle the cage’. He believes that’s why Eoin Morgan has been overlooked by England because he refused to come home early from the IPL at one stage. He feels if a player puts himself up for the IPL and isn’t selected they will be reprimanded.
There are two very clear camps to which most people will fall into one or the other. First the negative side that sees KP as an arrogant, egotistical man who is only interested in money and personal milestones. If that is your opinion, this book will do nothing to change that. If in fact you are a bit more open minded and realise that in fact more positively, Pietersen is an incredible, once in a generation talent that has been horribly mishandled by the ECB, the book will make you empathise even further. While it will ask as many questions as answer it, what the book shows is that behind all the glitz and the glamour, there is an extremely insecure man there that posesses a unique talent which should have been nurtured by England. Instead he was chastised for trying too hard to be accepted, which he in fact regrets to this day. Pietersen is a man full of deep regret for a number of his action throughout his career, some he describes as ‘naïve’ and ‘ill-judged’. The fact of the matter is the ECB have handled Pietersen badly from almost the start of his career for a man who wanted nothing more than to represent his adopted country, they couldn’t even get his name correct on his centenary cap. Whatever he is guilty of, no man should be disrespected like that.
‘KP’ by Kevin Pietersen is available now and is published by Sphere, priced £20.