“MORE stories emerging from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography,” The Cricketer magazine tweeted last week. “After all that’s been said, after all this time, whose side are you on?”
Come to that, whose side is The Cricketer on? The magazine’s managing director, Andy Afford, is the guitarist in a band called Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations, whose lead singer is former England bowler Graeme Swann – regarded by Pietersen as “a cunt”, it was revealed last week. And the magazine’s new head of editorial planning and production – following the recent sacking of editor Andrew Miller and two staff hacks – is Alec Swann, brother of Graeme.
On an Australian sports website last week, Alec described Pietersen as “desperately pathetic, desperately vitriolic, desperately bitter and, above all, desperately sad”. No wonder The Cricketer’s Twitter feed alluded to the book only after more than 24 hours of nonstop headlines made it impossible to ignore. On 6 October, the day when the Pietersen story broke, dominating all sports pages and websites, this was The Cricketer’s only tweet: "It’s deadline day for our Pork Farms competition, get your entries in by 5pm for your chance to win!”
No such reluctance at the Telegraph. Its coverage last week was jauntily positive, with headlines such as “Kevin Pietersen is right, there was bullying in the England team” and “The world needs mavericks like Kevin Pietersen”. Geoffrey Boycott was wheeled out to say that “Kevin Pietersen is right to be angry that [his] England career was cut short”. But where was the paper’s cricket correspondent, Derek Pringle? Remarkably, the paper and its website carried not one word by him all last week.
Bland, shoulder-shrugging piece
Pringle has long been one of KP’s fiercest critics. “If there is a common thread to Pietersen’s career,” he wrote in February this year, when the England board finally ditched KP, “it has been the disarray in which he has left the teams for whom he played.” But that was before Pietersen signed up as a sports columnist for, er, the Telegraph. Now the editorial policy is thoroughly pro-KP. When Pringle did finally appear in the paper, this Monday, it was with a bland, shoulder-shrugging piece about cricket mavericks of the past.
The Mail, by contrast, was happy to let its cricket correspondent Paul Newman be as rude as he liked about Pietersen and his book. “Pietersen displays little short of brutal contempt for England’s most successful coach throughout his book KP: The Autobiography,” Newman wrote on 7 October, “but Sportsmail can expose him as a hypocrite who staged a failed one-day coup by trying to befriend [Andy] Flower.” A day later, Newman gleefully revealed: "A damning leaked ECB document exposes Kevin Pietersen as a hypocrite and a divisive influence.”
You might almost think Newman and KP have a bit of previous – and they do. Newman was the ghostwriter of Pietersen’s first autobiography, in 2006. They fell out three years later during a Caribbean tour, when Newman ran a Mail exclusive saying that Pietersen felt like “doing a Tevez”, following the example of the Manchester City footballer who had gone home to Argentina without telling his employers. The story was based on a throwaway comment to Newman that Pietersen had thought was not for publication.
A complete cunt
“Our relationship never recovered,” he writes of Newman in the new autobiography. “I’d come to realise that the world was a harsher place than I had imagined. The people who built you up would destroy you just as quickly.”
Oddly enough, in all the thousands of words written by Newman about KP’s book last week, he found no space to mention that.
The Daily Mail was offered the chance to interview Pietersen last week, but it declined on the grounds that, like Newman, editor Paul Dacre has the same opinion of KP as former England captain Andrew “he’s a complete cunt” Strauss.
The Mail on Sunday, always happy to wind up Dacre, promptly took up the offer and dispatched sports editor Alison Kervin. On the “textgate” controversy that got him dropped in 2012, Pietersen assured her: "It was so preposterous that I just ignored it.” Asked why he hadn’t shown his phone to his bosses to prove that he had not sent derogatory messages about Strauss, KP insisted: "I pushed the story out of my mind. People I spoke to for advice told me to ignore it. It seemed the best thing to do.”
Shome mishtake! Far from ignoring it, as Kervin should have known, Pietersen’s lawyers demanded an apology and retraction from the Mail and the Sunday Times for their reports on “textgate”. When their legal teams replied that no retraction would be forthcoming until the England star produced his phone records, however, these threats suddenly died down.