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James Taylor on Kevin Pietersen: ‘He took it on himself not to be a decent bloke to me’

by Henry Clark
@HenryWAClark 4 minute read

Speaking on the Giving The Game Away podcast, former England batsman James Taylor opened up on his Test debut, which came in a tumultuous series defeat to South Africa in 2012.

With the No.1 Test ranking on the line, England and Kevin Pietersen became embroiled in the ‘textgate’ scandal, when it was alleged Pietersen had texted his friends in the South African dressing room tips on how to get Andrew Strauss out, something Pietersen denies. Strauss, England captain at the time, retired from international cricket at the end of the series, while Pietersen was left out for its final game.

“It kind of just blew up around me,” said Taylor, who made his debut in the second Test. “It was an interesting time. It was a bit bizarre seeing some of the antics going on on the field from certain individuals but that was all I knew, that was Test cricket to me. I was so focussed and introverted I didn’t really look and bother about what was going on. I kind of kept my head down, little old me, debut, lots of rubbish flying on around me, but I didn’t notice. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t notice a lot of it. It was only six months later I knew a number of things that went on.”

Taylor’s debut was overshadowed by Pietersen’s epic 149, with Taylor contributing 34 to a partnership of 147 with the England No.4.

“Me and KP put on 150 or something like that. That was my first partnership. I like to think my innings got overlooked because he was so unbelievable and played that phenomenal innings which was one of the best innings you’ll see. Arguably, if he’d played to the situation he wouldn’t have played anything like that innings. It was a phenomenal innings against one of the best attacks and I just blunted it up the other end, tried to get him on strike, but nobody remembers that I was playing the situation.”

Taylor, who is 5ft 6in, says his height was used by Pietersen as a criticism “because he wanted other people in the team”.

“I will never use it as an excuse, but people say I didn’t play more then initially because people thought I was too small. KP obviously jumped on that bandwagon and said stuff about me because he wanted other people in the team other than me.

“I didn’t know KP. For some reason we never got on, not that I didn’t like him initially because I didn’t know him, he just took it on himself not to be a decent bloke to me or with me around for some reason.”

In his 2014 autobiography, KP: The Autobiography, Pietersen referenced Taylor’s diminutive stature, stating he didn’t feel he was good enough to play for England at that stage. “His dad was a jockey and James is built for the same gig,” Pietersen wrote. “We were facing the fiercest attack in world cricket; I didn’t think he was up for it.”

For Taylor at the time, dealing with flak from Pietersen was made easier because he “didn’t respect” the England great.

“I was 21, making my debut, and there was so much noise. KP had obviously said stuff about me and abused me but when I heard about it… Usually when somebody’s abusing you or you’re being bullied at school your heart would sink because someone’s being nasty to you, and nobody likes that. But honestly, I didn’t care. Not in an arrogant way, but I’m really proud of myself.

“If Alastair Cook or Andrew Strauss had been going ‘that little James Taylor, he’s rubbish, he’s no good etcetera etcetera’ your heart would sink. But honestly, I had no feelings, nothing inside, because I didn’t respect him at the time because I’d seen how he was and what he’d been saying and how he’d behaved – I didn’t respect him as much as I should.”

“As a cricketer – legend, brilliant, love watching him. But as a person at the time and what I saw I didn’t respect him that much so it didn’t hurt me as much.”

According to Taylor, Pietersen’s coldness didn’t extend to England’s other senior players.

“It was a tough challenge, let alone not knowing the guys in the team really well. I was lucky that I knew Broady and Swanny. Matt Prior was outstanding, he took me under his wing. I think he liked that I had energy and I buzzed around in the field and I was really energetic and positive.”

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