Going out and getting ‘hammered’ together is better than ‘ridiculous’ team-building in a German forest, says Kevin Pietersen.
‘I know that it sounds so stupid, but if you go and get hammered as a team on a night out – as senior and junior players – so long as you don’t do something ridiculously stupid, the bonds you can create there are better than any ridiculous sessions you can do in the forest in Germany,’ he said.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPNCricinfo, looking at the Ashes series in Australia, which starts in late November, Pietersen said that the England players must be given the freedom to make their own choices on and off the field. Apart from the fact that the potential loss of Ben Stokes, who was arrested after a brawl in Bristol, was ‘a massive blow’, he believes the team will be beaten before a ball is bowled ‘if they fail to embrace the full experience of a tour of Australia.’
‘When we had the great tour Down Under in 2010-11, we had the most incredible couple of nights out at the start of that tour, which brought the team so close together,’ Pietersen said. ‘Before the 2013 trip, we were talking about having similar nights out to get the team bonded, but obviously it was too intense going into the 2013 series, and those sort of opportunities didn’t present themselves – or weren’t allowed to present themselves – which caused issues.’
Pietersen, who experienced six Ashes campaigns at home and away during his career, was famously sacked by the ECB in the wake of the 5-0 defeat on that 2013-14 tour, despite having been their top-scorer in the course of a sorry campaign.
This year England’s management has opted against any overt exercises in team bonding, such as the trip to Bavaria in 2010-11, or a much-lampooned SAS training weekend in Stoke that preceded their departure four years ago. However, the issue has rarely been more in the spotlight than in the wake of the events outside the Mbargo nightclub on September 25, when Stokes was caught on video allegedly throwing punches at two men in a street brawl.
But Pietersen does add the rider: ‘Personal responsibility has grown men in any industry, I think,’ he said. ‘It is key to your success and your development, because I think you can develop more as a person if you do things yourself.
‘It’s your job and your career, and if you mess it up, there will be another one on the conveyor belt that’s going to come in and take your place. So, if I was the leader of a group of players, I’d give them that rope and say if you’re going to go hang yourself, you’ll hang yourself.
‘You can go out as long as you’re sensible, it doesn’t matter. You have to enjoy your career, you’re away from home so much, you’re not in your own bed. You cannot just be ”hotel, team coach, dressing room, practice, play, journalism, hotel, food” … you just can’t do it, it’s just not in you.
‘Do whatever you want, but don’t get caught drinking at 2 o’clock on the morning before a game, don’t get caught fighting in the streets, don’t get caught doing things you shouldn’t be doing before the games, and in particular before training days, because those always stood me in good stead for when I went into battle.’
Photo: Alexandra Wey/EPA/BackpagePix