Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 16 August 2012, where the title is “How Warne avoided dressing room chaos which has claimed Pietersen”
IRONIES abound in the Kevin Pietersen soap opera.While the first of them is that a South African in exile has caused such chaos in the middle of a Test series against his home country, this story has more layers than the Inghams – and more feathers. Not the least of the ironies is the interjection from Pietersen’s pal, Shane Warne. The pair became good friends at Hampshire and shared a hairdresser during the 2005 Ashes series. Warne might see some parallels in his mate’s situation.The Australian champion leg-spinner had personal troubles with texting, a fact celebrated in the song What an SMS I’m In from Eddie Perfect’s show Shane Warne: The Musical.
Overnight Warne bought into the controversy over the axing of Pietersen from the England team on, of all things, Twitter. “If KP didn’t play second test V SA the scoreline would read SA 2 ENG 0 . . . SA ranked number 1 test team in the world, need I say more . . . For English cricket to be in this situation after so much good work, there’s only one way now for our friendly English buddies,” he wrote. “Cricket lovers around the world will miss watching KP’s serious talent and skill on the international stage. It’s just a shame the public miss out on seeing KP play for England,” he added.
Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist must be quietly amused by Warne’s involvement.
Pietersen’s crime is that he allegedly made derogatory comments about England captain Andrew Strauss via text to mates in the South African dressing room. It’s an allegation he refuses to address. Strauss broke his silence on the matter yesterday. “I’ve always got on with Kevin,” he said. “I’ve tried to be honest with him; he’s been honest with me.That’s why this has all been a bit of a surprise to me. I think the discontent that Kevin had with the board over his contract situation was one that the players didn’t get involved in – and I didn’t really get involved in, if I’m honest. But over the last week I have had to get involved, because there have been issues a little bit more central to his relationship with the other players and our ability to perform out in the middle.”
Strauss went on to say that at the core of the issue was a commitment within the team not to air dirty laundry in public.
In 1999, Warne, then vice-captain, had a falling out with his captain Steve Waugh and it apparently smoulders to this day.
Warne was hurt that his skipper, who was a tour selector, dropped him for the third Test against West Indies and chose instead to play Stuart MacGill and Colin Miller. The worst of it was that Warne, as vice-captain, was involved in the meeting with Waugh and Geoff Marsh where his axing was discussed. Allan Border who called in to mediate and while the spinner took it stoically his relationship with Waugh never recovered.
They had been close, or at least respectful before that. In one of his early books Warne rated Waugh the best batsman in the world. However, after the axing the bowler rated his former captain 26th in the world, below David Boon, Darren Lehmann and Brett Lee.
Warne noted that his former skipper was handed a wonderful team, was a “match saver rather than a match winner” and that he had times when he “struggled against the short ball”.
Warne was also a vocal critic of Gilchrist. The Victorian championed his keeper mate Darren Berry and the pair had taunted the New South Welshman in one game telling him he was only in the national side because he was an “arse licker”. The leg-spinner took another shot when Gilchrist replaced him as vice-captain.
A few things stopped the Warne saga spinning into the train wreck that is Pietersen. The first was that Waugh was a clever captain who held out an olive branch to the offended Warne.
At the World Cup which followed the West Indies series, Waugh approached the crestfallen Warne who said he was thinking of retiring. “Plain and simple I was ready to quit,” he wrote later. “My tone had clearly taken him by surprise. But he is a good listener. He let me say my piece, get it off my chest and then warned me not to make a decision rashly.”
Players who were there for those tours insist the other thing that is different is that Warne was respected in the side and was smart enough to be aware of his surroundings. He may have wallowed but he never moaned in public about how hard it was to be him in that dressing room — as Pietersen has done.
Warne and Gilchrist were wise enough to realise they had to play well together and never let the hostilities flare up in or out of the dressing room. Pietersen has had a lot of input from mates outside the dressing room and none of it is helping his situation. Tabloid media personality Piers Morgan accused Stuart Broad of being one person behind the fake Twitter account that had so upset Pietersen.
The bowler has denied it. The South Africans, meanwhile, are doing their best not to smirk.