'Need to win next three Tests on cricket field, not in the media' - Pietersen on Stokes' England comeback remarks ahead of Headingley Test
Defeats in Edgbaston and Lord's and a 2-0 series lead in favour of Australia in the ongoing Ashes 2023 have exposed England's soft underbelly beneath all the "relaxed talk" and suggestions of being in control of their fate in the 'Bazball' era, said former skipper Kevin Pietersen.
Pietersen took the England players and management to task and urged them to rather "walk the walk" than be busy indulging in all the talk. The word from the ex middle-order giant put comments from the England camp in the previous three weeks under the scanner, wherein debatable remarks from the likes of Ollie Robinson, James Anderson and Zak Crawley have hogged the media space.
The criticism over those comments has only mounted since the end of the second Test, the comprehensive Australian win in which has been pipped to the limelight by all the controversy and drama surrounding the Jonny Bairstow stumping, with England continuing to invoke the 'spirit of cricket' even as fans and pundits question their hypocrisy in the matter where the tourists only subjected one of the home team players to the laws.
Pietersen feels noise coming out from the English camp has only provided fodder to the world outside and given the impression of a bad loser about the hosts.
Pietersen urges England to back the talk in Headingley
"If you're going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, and this England cricket team isn't walking the walk," Pietersen wrote in his column for the 'Betway'.
"They’re acting like they're the greatest team around, but they’re currently on course to be the first England team to lose at home to Australia since 2001."
"After the first Test match, Ollie Robinson said that they felt like they won the game, Jimmy Anderson was complaining that the wicket was like kryptonite, and then you've got Zak Crawley saying they’re going to win the next one by 150 runs."
Pietersen noted down a sense of insecurity hidden beneath the expression of brash confidence from England under McCullum and Stokes and sought course correction on the field rather than providing headlines for the front pages.
"Leading into Headingley, all of this need to stop," he wrote. "The pressure that they're putting themselves under by speaking that way and using that language is unnecessary. It's not helping in any way, shape, or form."
"I know it wasn’t the players or Brendon McCullum who came up with the term ‘Bazball’ – I don’t think they actually like that label – so I have some sympathy for them. All they want to do is try and get the best out of their players, but they’re not helping themselves. The way they’re talking actually gives credence to that term."
"I said a lot of things in my career, and I put myself under a lot of pressure, but I was able to walk the walk. England are not walking the walk."
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Pietersen stretched over his point to put Stokes' after-game comments on the knife's edge as well, stating the skipper having insisted his team is capable of winning the three Tests, must go out there and do the job as a collective unit on the "cricket field", "not in the media".
"Stokes has said, ‘We’ve beaten teams 3-0 before and we want to do that again,’ and I believe him. He's that kind of person. I absolutely believe every single word that he says. But they need to win the next three Test matches on the cricket field and not in the media," he wrote.
"I'd be very happy if none of them do a press conference before they turn up on Thursday, and they just go out and play cricket."