Kevin Pietersen's absence from the dressing room has brought a sense of calm and relief among players, according to England vice-captain Matt Prior. Speaking in Dubai, Prior, when asked in Dubai whether the dressing room would be a better place without Pietersen, Prior replied "yes, it will". Prior, whose relationship with Pietersen was not in the best of terms during the Ashes, even questioned the batsman's commitment to team success.
"I think one of the biggest things the ECB want to rediscover," Prior said, "is the value of playing cricket for England. The honour and the pride you need to show as an England cricketer. And they only want people in that dressing room that are going to be passionate about England winning and performing." England have scrapped Pietersen's central contract and his future in the national side is doubtful.
Ironically, Pietersen has scored more runs in international cricket than any England player, but after the Ashes horror, the England management felt that captain Alastair Cook needed players he could trust as the rebuilding process began. Prior admitted that Pietersen's talent should have made him "the best England cricketer to ever walk this planet" but he was certainly a 'problem' in the dressing room.
Pietersen scored 8,181 runs in 104 Tests and 4,440 runs in 136 one-day internationals but he was never far from controversy. He was briefly dropped in 2012 after media reports he had sent "provocative" text messages about England players to members of the South Africa squad during a series involving both teams.
Prior backed Cook to the hilt, saying the Essex batsman had the qualities to become a fine leader. "He will break records and he's a phenomenal cricketer," said Prior. "He will score the most runs for an Englishman in Test cricket, no doubt, and he's a phenomenal bloke as well. To read some of the criticism he's got has just been incredible, as anyone who knows him respects him.
"When it comes to captaincy he's a big enough bloke to admit he's not the finished article yet. Cook is still very young in his captaincy and he needs to learn and needs to grow into the position. There are certain things I think a captain needs. I think being such a nice person is one of the things which doesn't stand him in good stead as a captain and the best thing about him is he accepts that and he knows he has to improve," said Prior.
(With agency inputs)