England's Dressing Room in Australia Was Not Pleasant

Published: 09th June 2014 03:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2014 03:34 PM   |  A+A-


If the sobering experience last winter taught us anything, it is that back-to-back Ashes series should never happen again - we were not equipped to handle it, says Kevin Pietersen in his first column for The Daily Telegraph

I will have no anger, no negative thoughts whatsoever when England walk out without me at Lord's on Thursday to play their first Test since the winter. I wish my friends in the England team well. I have moved on from the England and Wales Cricket Board's decision to end my international career and have put things in perspective.

Fourteen years ago, I was an off-spinner from Pietermaritzburg who did not know where his life was going. I had a notion that I wanted to make a life in England, but had no idea if I would succeed.

Now I have played 104 Tests, batted at all the best grounds in the world and been lucky enough to score hundreds everywhere. Could I play more Test cricket? Yes of course, but should I sit here thinking I should be playing on Thursday? No, because that is when jealousy and negative thoughts come into your head.

I am grateful for what I have had and have moved on with my life. I have scored 13,500 international runs for England and it would be greedy to want more, so I am at peace with everything.

It took only a couple of conversations with my family to start thinking this way, because of how much I really did not enjoy the winter.

In fact, it has been a relief to be out of the dressing room because it was not a pleasant place in Australia. We were losing and in my opinion the environment was poor, and I was not alone in thinking that. It is a view shared by a number of the players who have spoken their minds since coming back from the tour.

Now I have had time to reflect on the winter it is clear to me that back-to-back Ashes should never happen again. It was really hard for the England team to go to Australia and defend the Ashes just weeks after winning at home.

As soon as we arrived, the Australian media turned the heat up on us. I have had that for years so it did not bother me. It was fun. But for other players you could sense it was a problem. The senior players were tired and it soon became a really long grind against an Australian side who had their backs up in their own country.

Australia knew they came close to winning here. The 3-0 defeat last summer was not a true reflection of that series in terms of the way they played their cricket and we played ours, so I knew it was going to be a tight return contest and we were not equipped to handle it.

Mitchell Johnson was sensational on those pitches and he was handled brilliantly by Michael Clarke. Even if he picked up a wicket in his third or fourth over of a spell, Clarke would take him off and save him for later in the day. It was brilliant captaincy. Johnson's bowling was the best and most aggressive I have seen during my career, and I told him so at the end of the Test series when we shared a beer.

By then I thought that Andy Flower wanted me out. After the Sydney Test, a headline came out claiming Flower had said to the ECB it was either "him or me". He denied saying that but the damage was done.

But my relationship with the other players was fine. We had an incredible tour on and off the field. I was helping all the bowlers out with their batting, and the night we lost 5-0 we were all having a drink in the bar together with our wives and girlfriends, which proves all was OK between us and still is.

I have no issue with the players, as many have said in interviews since the tour ended. I speak to Stuart Broad and I even organised for Graeme Swann to go on holiday to one of my friend's hotels after he retired.

On a personal note, I did not score the runs I would have liked in Australia, but I have played a certain way throughout my career and will continue to do so. There is method to my batting but I play on instinct as well, and I would absolutely play that way again if we could go back in time.

In the first innings at Brisbane, I was caught at midwicket. As soon as the ball left Ryan Harris's hand I thought 'four'. I saw the angle and thought 'bang it through midwicket', but I got caught out. In the second innings, all I tried to do was help a short ball from Johnson to fine leg because it was too tight to pull, but I was caught again.

In Adelaide, I walked out to the crease and felt like I did not know which side of the bat I was holding. I felt that terrible and that is why I was walking at Peter Siddle and playing him on the full.

As soon as I was dismissed I walked out of the dressing room to the nets with Richard Halsall, the assistant coach, and spent 45 minutes trying to figure out how to bat again. I felt that bad, the worst I have ever experienced in an Ashes series.

Why? I do not fully know. But my knee was hassling me a bit. I had an injection a few weeks before and during that innings it was hurting. In the dressing room everyone takes the mickey out of how I bend my knee during my stance because of how exaggerated the movement can be. But in Adelaide, because of the knee pain, I was standing a lot taller in the crease and that changed my game. I said to Halsall and spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed: "I can't bat like that again." I had to work hard to get myself back to playing normally again. In the second innings I made 53 and played very responsibly.

My dismissal in the second innings at Perth has received a lot of attention. I was caught at long on trying to hit Nathan Lyon for a second six. But if I see that ball again, I will still try to hit it for six. No problem. As he tossed it up I thought 'six more there'. If you look at my career, that is how I play. People say it is irresponsible but it was not; it was successful.

Look at the innings that started it all off - the 158 against Australia in the 2005 Ashes at the Oval. I was hooking Brett Lee at 95mph into the stands. Any one of those shots could have gone straight up in the air and been caught. The 186 in Mumbai in 2012 is talked about as the best innings by a foreigner in India. I took risks during that hundred. I am England's leading run-scorer in all forms of cricket because of playing that way.

People say I should have ground it out. Should I? What would have been different?

What I have done during my career is ignore the ridiculous praise and the ridiculous criticism. I have stayed even and been mentally strong enough to keep believing in my methods and what I think is the best way for me to be successful.

It would have been easy for me to start defending a bit more. Would that have made me a better player? No. I am a risk-taker in cricket, in business and all parts of my life.

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