Kevin Pietersen has urged the ECB not to curb the England players’ choices off the field during upcoming Ashes series in Australia in wake of the arrest and subsequent suspension of allrounder Ben Stokes.
Stokes spent a night in prison and his place in the England touring squad for the Ashes is still in doubt pending a police investigation for a brawl that took place in Bristol last month.
Pietersen, who was part of the England team that last won an Ashes Down Under – in 2010-2011, said the players must be free to do what they want away from game, as “long as you don’t do something ridiculously stupid”.
The 37-year-old Pietersen was also involved in the 2013 tour that saw England lose five-nil with the batsman sacked by the ECB after that series for “a breach of trust and team ethics”.
Pietersen told ESPNcricinfo: “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.
“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 allow them to present themselves – which caused issues.
“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.
“Those are the little bits and pieces of cricketing nous and sense of understanding a team that were good on that tour but horrendous in 2013-14.”
The South Africa-born Pietersen feels England’s current Test batting line-up is “incredibly weak” and believes captain Joe Root and Alastair Cook will need to score the bulk of the runs.
Stokes’ potential absence,Pietersen feels, will also have a massive impact on the result of the series that gets underway in Brisbane on 23 November.
Pietersen added: “I think without Root or Cook, that batting order is incredibly weak, incredibly inexperienced, and with Stokes maybe not going, I mean, it’s even worse.
“People say that ‘one bloke doesn’t make a team’, well, I mean one bloke who bowls 140kph, get important wickets, can hit 100 off 70 balls, can hit 200 off 100 balls in a Test match, and also, more importantly, catches everything at slip off the spinner, is a massive player. A massive, massive player.”