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Stokes wants England to forget Pietersen episode

LONDON: England all-rounder Ben Stokes said Tuesday he wanted to see attention turned to the team’s World Cup chances rather than the ongoing fall-out from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography.

Former England batsman Pietersen, effectively sacked after the team’s return home from their 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia in 2013/14, created a furore with the publication of his autobiography in which he criticised ex-coach Andy Flower and several current players.

In particular, Pietersen alleged that a group of senior players including bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad instigated a “bullying culture” where they demanded apologies from less experienced team-mates who made fielding errors.

This prompted a series of claims and counter-claims and while the hype surrounding Pietersen’s book has started to die down, many of his more controversial points may well be aired again ahead of England’s seven-match one-day international series in Sri Lanka, which starts later this month.

But Durham rising star Stokes said he hoped the focus would return to on-field matters ahead of a tour which marks the start of England’s lead-in to next year’s one-day World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“One major thing that I reckon is that it’s taken the eye off the cricket side of things, it’s been focused on the book rather than the amount of stuff we’ve got coming up,” Stokes told Sky Sports News on Tuesday.

“We’ve got a World Cup coming up after the new year and we’ve got a massive tour coming up to Sri Lanka.

“We’ve been massively focused on what we’ve got coming up in the next six months and I think the reports can suggest that everything has been based around the book rather than the cricket.”

– Strong dressing room –

In the midst of England’s wretched tour of Australia, Stokes was given his Test debut and was one of the few players in the squad to enhance his reputation with a maiden century in Perth.

Stokes said that as a junior player he had not been privy to any discussions surrounding Pietersen on tour but that he had no qualms with the atmosphere in the dressing room.

“I didn’t have any part in all these things that went on behind closed doors,” the 23-year-old added. “All the meetings and everything like that, I still don’t know if they actually happened or not so I don’t really think I could comment on anything like that.

“At the moment it’s a really strong dressing room, we’ve got a lot of new faces in it and I think it can only bode well for England in the future.”

Last week, Broad defended himself against Pietersen’s accusation of bullying by saying his behaviour was no different from that of many other sportsmen disappointed when things didn’t go their way on the field.

“The ‘bullying’ word has not crossed my mind in eight or nine years of playing international cricket,” Broad said.

He added: “You would expect guys to be excited and passionate about playing for their country. I look at my heroes growing up, the likes of (former England rugby union captain) Martin Johnson.

“Look at (former Manchester United goalkeeper) Peter Schmeichel — when he conceded a goal, he certainly gave (defenders) Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister an earful.

“I don’t know if that would be classed as bullying, or just the passion of being disappointed.”- AFP

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