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Unity matters for England

The question is whether Strauss and Pietersen can play together again

Michael Vaughan
Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
Former England captain Michael Vaughan
Gulf News

London: Kevin Pietersen’s rehabilitation as an England player will be a long process and both sides will have to change for them to move forward.

When you have sent a derogatory text message to the opposition having a pop at your captain, a man who is well-respected in the game, it cannot be solved by e-mailing an apology or sitting down for an hour to talk about it.

I question whether the dressing room will be the same again and can ever get back to how it was 18 months ago when they won in Australia.

Throughout this saga I have not read one positive comment, tweet or article from an England player supporting Kevin.

That tells me they do not respect him, which is sad considering the great player he can be.

Now he has to understand that to earn the trust back he has to behave very differently to how he has over the last few months. He has not surrounded himself with people who have given him the truth. He has people around him who tell him he has made all the right decisions — but ultimately he has made some big mistakes.

It is a big worry that the guys do not like him. I have never been in a situation where one player is disliked by all the others.

Sure there have been unpopular players, but not to the extent it has caused this much of a problem. Solving it will have to be a two-way process.

For Kevin to come back, England will want guarantees that he is committed to the team and this is not just a PR stunt or some way of him trying to protect his image in the UK. I do not think it is.

I think he has realised the mistakes he has made and the silly things he has said. He will have to sit down with all his team-mates and clear the air. But they also have to be flexible. They have to understand his character and realise that he is different. He is very sensitive and he likes to talk about money.

The big issue will be resolving the situation with Andrew Strauss. Strauss is a loyal man. He has all the right attributes. You can trust him with anything. He will feel let down very badly by Pietersen.

Throughout the past couple of years all Strauss will have done is manage Kevin in a level way. He would not have been asking too much, but Kev has become annoyed that Strauss and England want him to do certain things. He does not like being told what to do all the time.

Mistakes have been made on both sides. Graeme Swann should have been fined for the comments in his book about Pietersen and Kevin will resent the fact action was not taken.

To win a Test match you spend a week in each other’s company, almost every minute of the day. But in football it is very different. You only spend a few hours a day together.

Look at world cups. Whenever there is a problem in a football team they fall apart at tournaments, when they spend a long time in each other’s pockets.

Well, that is what playing Test cricket is like, which is why managing this situation has been so hard.

The best thing is for Strauss to go away after this Test and have a good break. Pietersen should do the same.

Then in a few weeks’ time they should have a meeting and see if they can manage to be together on the India tour.

That is probably the hardest tour you can undertake as a cricketer and the working relationships have to be rock solid.

There is a long way to go until we are at that stage and I am not sure that Kevin and Strauss can ever really be close again. This week I think Kevin will realise exactly what he is in danger of losing and missing this Test against South Africa will hit him hard. By not being at Lord’s, he will find out that playing Test cricket is better than anything else in the world.

The result in this Test or even the World Twenty20 is not important.

There is the bigger picture of the England cricket team to think about. I do not give a damn about losing the World Twenty20 title or No 1 status.

All I care about is England getting the team unity back. If they do that they will win again.

When there is a major problem within the team you are never going to win Tests or beat the big teams until it is sorted. If that means Kevin missing out on the Twenty20 so they can go to Sri Lanka without any baggage then that should happen.

— Telegraph Group Limited, London 2012