Ben Stokes wants England focus back on cricket

 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.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 04, 2014, 23:44 PM IST
Ben Stokes wants England focus back on cricket

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."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."