Pietersen plays the victim as he lays into Prior and England
Batsman accuses team-mates of bullying in 'biggest work of fiction since Jules Verne'
If only Kevin Pietersen could play left-arm spin as well as he can play the victim he might have finished his Test career as one of the all-time greats. Instead the former England batsman, who made the last of his 104 Test appearances in January this year, is on course to be best remembered as a world-class whiner.
Since making his Test debut in 2005 Pietersen has never been shy of expressing his opinion but his latest outburst – timed to coincide with the release of his memoirs, KP: The Autobiography – has sparked a mix of amusement and incredulity. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph the 6ft 4in Pietersen complained he was the victim of a "bullying culture" in the England dressing room under the former director of cricket Andy Flower.
Flower left his post after the disastrous Ashes whitewash (the same series that did for Pietersen) but the South African-born star appears determined to settle some scores in his autobiography. Fingering James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann as leaders of a dressing-room clique, accused of wielding too "much power", Pietersen reserved his strongest criticism for Matt Prior, saying he has "real issues" with the wicketkeeper.
That the pair don't see eye to eye has been public knowledge for months, a clash of personalities often played out in bad-tempered Twitter exchanges, and it was to the social network site that Prior turned after reading Pietersen's interview.
Responding to his former teammate's claims that he is "horrendous" and a "negative influence" on the England team, Prior tweeted cheerfully: "After this morning, I'm looking forward to reading the full KP book. Might bully my kids into getting it for me for Xmas!!"
Prior, who is recuperating from surgery on an Achilles injury that has left his England career in jeopardy, added: "Obvs [sic] sad to see the accusations against me this am and I WILL have my right of reply! However today is not the day and Twitter is not the place for it! Now back to my Achilles rehab and learning to walk again! have a great day everyone."
Pietersen's disclosures are unlikely to win him new friends among a cricketing public who already regard him as the ultimate individual in a team sport. His former Test captain when he made his England debut, Michael Vaughan, labelled the comments as "very sad". He told the Daily Telegraph: "Kevin Pietersen talking about Andy Flower in a negative sense, Matthew Prior his team mate for so many years, Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss... I just can't understand how it got to this stage".
The fiercest criticism, however, came from another of those featured in Pietersen's book, Graeme Swann, reported The Times. Labelling the autobiography "the biggest work of fiction since Jules Verne", the former England off-spinner turned media pundit rubbished Pietersen's claims during an awards' ceremony at Lord's on Monday evening. "I immediately realised it was codswallop when I read the character assassination of Matt Prior," said Swann. "Tragically, I don't think Kev realises the one person who fought tooth and nail to keep him in the side is the one person he is now assassinating: Matt Prior."
Swann also noted that Pietersen's main targets were no longer part of the England set up, suggesting they had been chosen carefully in order to keep open the possibility of a return to the side.
As for who was to blame for last winter's Ashes debacle, Swann was in no doubt: "We had a magnificent team ethos and spirit until Mitchell Johnson took his blindfold off and then it all fell apart."