If Kevin Pietersen was found guilty of disagreeing with Cook’s captaincy then ECB have hanged the wrong man, writes former Australian cricketing great Ian Chappell
“Now playing on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s top forty, at number one, Queen’s massive hit; Another One Bites the Dust.”
First it was Alastair Cook, sacked as ODI captain.
“Another one bites the dust,” and that’d be Paul Downton, dismissed as Managing Director of the England team.
“Another one bites the dust,” and that was Peter Moores, sacked for the second time as England coach.
“And another one gone,” that being Kevin Pietersen, for the umpteenth and likely final time, shunned as either an England player or captain.
It was Andrew Strauss — the newly appointed Director of Cricket — who broke the news to Pietersen that he wasn’t wanted in the foreseeable future because of a breakdown in trust between him and the ECB. A matter of trust eh. The Trust built up by the ECB in recent times wouldn’t last you a month in retirement.
Is Pietersen one of the best six batsmen in England? Definitely.
England captain Alastair Cook (right) walks off with Kevin Pietersen after the Melbourne Test defeat to Australia on December 29, 2013. PIC/AFP
With an Ashes series looming, will Australia be happy to hear of his demise? Abso-bloody-lutely. Did Pietersen contribute to his own downfall? No doubt, a number of times over.
Could it all have turned out differently if the England hierarchy had handled things better? Maybe.
A captain needs to establish the ground rules early for a star player who has maverick tendencies. “I want you in the side because you’re a match winner,” is a good starting point. The follow-up goes something like this; “I accept you’re different but if it starts to hurt the team then we’ll need to have a discussion and my patience does have a limit. Finally, if you have any misgivings bring them to me and don’t whisper them to the world.” The captain then needs to manage the other players’ perceptions of any ‘star treatment’. If it’s explained to those players that by reasonably accommodating a maverick, the team will win more often and hence everyone’s place is a little more secure, that should be explanation enough. To an outsider, English cricket appears to suffer from a desire to have every player fit a mould and agree on it’s shape.
Cricket is a team game played by individuals.
You can’t expect players to express their individuality on the field and then leave it in their locker, like a discarded bat, as they depart the dressing room.
Part of the enjoyment of leadership is having a varied group of characters and moulding them into a team while allowing for a reasonable amount of individuality. Anyone who believes stories about teams all getting on famously with no quarrels, still puts a bottle of beer by the fire place on X’mas Eve.
In most cases the argumentative players fight hardest and longest for their team on the field. A captain can learn from being told by a teammate; “You’re a d**khead. Why don’t you try doing it this way?”
The final straw with Pietersen and his England teammates was apparently a similar conversation during the Ashes debacle in 2013-14. Pietersen’s concerns had some validity because England’s performance in Australia wasn’t acceptable and amounted to early surrender. If Pietersen was found guilty of disagreeing with Cook’s captaincy then they’ve hanged the wrong man. England should’ve dismissed those players who agreed with Cook’s captaincy.
England has obsessed over who should be the new cricket Director and whether they needed a different coach, while avoiding the most important question; can England win the Ashes with Cook as captain? No they can’t and if he’s been retained as Test captain on the basis of being a likeable person then that’s poor reasoning. Like or dislike is a minor matter in captaincy choices.
The dithering over the captaincy will continue to impact on England with the appointment of their next coach a case in point. Will the best candidates want to be involved now with a team that doesn’t contain Pietersen and has Cook as it’s captain?
England is in a situation where they could be forced to change captains in the middle of an Ashes series or worse, at the end of another losing campaign. The jukebox is cranking up again and I predict it’ll be a familiar tune; “Another one bites the dust.”