Cape Town - Graeme Smith has joined his former Australian Test captaincy counterpart Ricky Ponting in supporting England outcast Kevin Pietersen’s view that there is a bullying culture in that country’s national team.
The matter is a focal point of controversial KwaZulu-Natal-born batsman Pietersen’s autobiography released in the UK this week.
The retired Proteas skipper was reported in London’s Daily Telegraph on Friday as saying bullying was an issue in the England camp and a weakness opponents could cash in on.
“Some of the stuff (in the book) I can believe and having played against him we always said if we could get a win and get ahead they would turn on each other,” Smith said.
“A lot of the stuff he has touched on in his book, the bullying stuff, you experienced playing against them and used it as an asset against them.
“KP is a drawcard and the world loves to watch him play the game. It is sad he is not playing international cricket anymore and man-management is a big factor in why he is not there.”
Pietersen will further ruffle feathers in his adopted country after being quoted in the book as saying: “Whatever passport I carry, I will always have South Africa in my heart.”
After experiencing some tensions with Proteas players in the earliest phase of his England career, the former Maritzburg College pupil has subsequently been on much better terms with various SA rivals of his Test heyday.
He has scored 8,181 runs in 104 Tests for England at an average of 47.28, and made 817 of them (average 45.38) against the Proteas in 10 encounters.
Pietersen’s Twitter account (@KP24) has also been full of pro-South African enthusiasm in recent days.
On Friday, for instance, he tweeted: “On safari in SA next week ... I CANNOT wait.”
An earlier one drew attention to the release of his book in this country: “South Africa - 20 Oct the book will be on your shelves ... I’ll be in JHB on 17th! Can’t wait!”
Pietersen has always been a fervent Springbok rugby supporter, and after Saturday’s triumph over the All Blacks at Ellis Park he tweeted a simple, celebratory: “#Lambie ... BMT!” after the substitute flyhalf goaled the decisive penalty from more than 50 metres.
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