How many times during the last six months have we heard the phrase, “when Pietersen’s book comes out in October…”.
October is no longer very far away. His book will be published on Thursday 9th of that month, and we should expect a newspaper serialisation – presumably in the Telegraph – to begin the previous Monday, the 6th.
The date has a double significance. Pietersen is free to publish because the confidentiality agreement he signed with the ECB will have just expired. This means the board itself will be free to tell their own side of the story, without Paul Downton having to apologise afterwards.
The veil of secrecy is about to be lifted. In theory, this will be the moment of truth. But what should we expect?
The big question relates to how candid Pietersen is prepared to be. What will he be prepared to say about his own conduct, but more importantly, that of others?
There are two ways of looking at this. Little Brown, Pietersen’s publishers, and David Walsh, his ghost-writer, will understand that for the sake of credibility and sales the book must deliver red meat in three main areas: losing the captaincy, text gate, and his sacking. If Pietersen is reluctant to speak, why would he have written a book – and at the first opportunity?
On the other hand, he might reason he has more to lose than gain by settling scores and righting wrongs. His long-term reputation and business interests (commentary and academies) are best served, perhaps, by a show of discretion and magnanimity.
The following are the questions I for one would like to ask him. They all relate to key areas of the mythology around Pietersen. Much of his reputation derives from assumptions made about the events they concern, even though few if any genuine facts are in the public domain.
– Is there any substance to the allegation that your departure from Nottinghamshire reduced the club to a state of chaos?
– Did you try to undermine Peter Moores, prior to the ‘tour report’ e-mail?
– When you wrote that e-mail, what brief had Hugh Morris given you? What did you say about Moores? Did you issue an ultimatum? Before stripping you of the captaincy, did Moores give you the opportunity to heal the breach with Moores?
– In early 2012, what was the true nature of your contract discussions with the ECB? What did you ask for? What was the response? How different were your requests from others’?
– What is your understanding of the provenance and operation of the KPGenius Twitter account?
– What did you say in the text messages, and to whom? Did you delete them, and if so why?
– Why, as it appeared, did your relationship with Andrew Strauss break down?
– Do you know why you were sacked? What is your understanding of the incidents, and changes in relationships, which led to that decision?
– What happened at the Melbourne team meeting?
– Why was a confidentiality agreement put in place?
How many of these questions will Pietersen address in the book? As well as the factors mentioned above, there are two other reasons why he might disappoint.
First, he may not actually know all the answers. For example, he might have been as baffled by his sacking as we were.
Second, he could well be far less interested in these themes than us. For scholars of Pietersen, the texts are the definitive mystery of his career. But for Pietersen himself, because he’s always known the content of those messages, they are totally unmysterious, and therefore vastly less interesting.
Whatever Pietersen says or doesn’t say, one thing’s for sure – he can’t win.
The reality is that most media opinion-formers have a blind hatred of Pietersen. They will twist his words to serve their own agenda.
When he admits to mistakes, his enemies will say, ‘see, I told you so’. When he denies allegations against him, they will say he’s lying. When he points out that others were also to blame, they will accuse him of bitterness, malevolence, and toxicity.
When he skirts around a subject (perhaps to protect others) they say his silence proves guilt.
There is only one Kevin Pietersen. He has no influential allies and is hopelessly outnumbered. Ranged against him, bayonets fixed and rifle-sights trained, are the massed ranks of the ECB and its sympathetic press. He will be blown to smithereens.
Many leading cricket journalists react tartly to the idea that (a) they are biased towards the ECB and against Pietersen and (b) they happily print bullshit fed to them by Lord’s.
They are either in a state of denial or lack self-awareness. Do they really believe Pietersen’s book will receive a fair press? That they will approach it with open minds?
John Etheridge, the Sun correspondent, deserves a great deal of credit for entering the fray on our comment boards last week. But I found it hard to accept everything he said.
John denied that the ECB leak to journalists. He also seemed to deny an in-built anti-Pietersen agenda. But then he proved the exact opposite:
When you say the PCA represent every other player including of course Cook, are you implying that Cook was directly involved or even present at any meetings?
Cook was at the meeting when Pietersen was told he was being sacked. Whitaker and Downton were also there. This is the ‘captain weasel – he looked at the ground and said nothing’ meeting as described by Piers Morgan. The counter version is that Pietersen flounced out after four minutes before Cook had a chance to speak.
This a typical example of the pointless kind of sneers aimed at Pietersen. As if the only reasonable thing to do after being sacked was hang around for a chat. What was Pietersen supposed to do – take Cook out for a pint?
And if the ECB don’t leak, as Etheridge argued, then how – as Downton, Cook, and Whitaker are all ECB employees, and there was no one else in the room – did that information reach the journosphere?
The way the ECB-media-Pietersen matrix functions is also crucial to one final element of the autobiography’s fall out. How will the board itself respond to the book’s revelations? As Paul Downton has already twice said that “there is no smoking gun”, and that Pietersen was fired “for cricketing reasons”, including disengagement and “disinterest”, what specific allegations can they make which won’t contradict their existing lines?
I only hope – vainly, perhaps – that the ECB puts its side of the story in an upfront and transparent way, via interviews or a press conference. The fear is that, instead, they will slyly, and anonymously, drip-feed poison. If we read many sentences along the lines of “there is a feeling within the ECB that Pietersen…”, we will all despair.