Alastair Cook broke his silence on Saturday on the Kevin Pietersen affair to deny allegations of a bullying culture in the England cricket team and reveal his sadness that an era which saw three Ashes victories had been ‘tarnished'.
The England captain resisted the temptation to hit back at Pietersen but strongly defended Andy Flower and Matt Prior, the main targets in Pietersen's new autobiography.
‘It's been a really sad week for cricket,' said Cook. ‘After talking to quite a few of my team-mates we want to draw a line under it.
‘I am very proud of the era I have played in. To win three Ashes, to become the best side in the world, to play with some great players. I only have fond memories of that.
‘To play under Andrew Strauss, to have played under Andy Flower as coach, I have only got respect for these guys. That era has been tarnished and I am sad about that.'
Flower is believed to be hurt and angered by Pietersen's attack on his legacy and astonished that anyone could accuse him of condoning a bullying culture.
‘I have known Andy since he took me under his wing at Essex,' said Cook. ‘I only have respect for him as a man and coach. He was an amazing coach. Chatting to some of the guys about it, they feel the same. A lot of the success was down to his drive and determination to make us a tough England side.'
Cook is angered at comments about Prior, one of his closest friends in the England team.
‘That was probably the biggest shock for me,' said Cook. ‘Matt is a great man who has been a fantastic servant for English cricket.
‘Hopefully if he can get through his really nasty injury, we could see him again in an England shirt.
‘He put his heart and soul on the line for England and the team was all that mattered to him. He should be incredibly proud of that.'
Asked in an interview with the BBC's Joe Wilson if he recognised the accusations of a bullying culture in the book, Cook said: ‘No, I don't. International cricket is a tough place and you're striving for excellence at all times. At some stages those frustrations probably boiled over more than they should have, but that was only people desperate to succeed and wanting to know the other 10 blokes around them were committed 100 per cent.
‘Did it overstep the mark a couple of times? Possibly but we addressed those issues. It certainly wasn't a bullying environment at all in my eyes.'