ECB have got their priorities wrong if Kevin Pietersen’s difference in opinion with skipper Alastair Cook was the reason for the flamboyant batsman’s removal, writes Ian Chappell
Was Kevin Pietersen eventually sacked because he disagreed with aspects of Alistair Cook’s captaincy?
Any English player who WASN’T exasperated by some of Cook’s captaincy in Australia deserves to be demoted.
Fall guy: Was Kevin Pietersen made a scapegoat for the Ashes defeat? Pic/Getty Images
Is it better for England to cut Pietersen adrift and choose a player who is more compliant or is it just easier? There’s no doubt that working on a difficult relationship takes a lot of time and effort but sometimes that’s what good leadership entails.
So, was Pietersen unmanageable or should questions be asked about the way a modern cricket team is run?
What I do know is that in selecting a cricket team, it’s performing not conforming that counts. A selector only has to ask himself if a player; “Can get me a 100 [if he’s a batsman] or take 5 wickets [if he’s a bowler]?”
There’s no doubt Pietersen is still capable of scoring a Test century, so he must have been sacked for reasons other than cricket ability.
That’s another thing about selection; like or dislike shouldn’t enter the discussion.
A player should be chosen on merit and then it’s up to the captain to sort out any personality clashes and ensure there’s a degree of harmony in the team. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be in agreement with the captain; a bunch of yes men won’t help a team win.
Players who question the way things are done actually help the captain. Firstly, the skipper can learn from the way others think and secondly, the argumentative players off the field are usually the last ones to concede defeat on the field.
While cricket is a team game it’s played by individuals. A captain can’t expect a player to be an individual expressing his talent on the field and then demand that off it he be subservient.
There’s a downside to every upside and occasionally a captain has to live with the consequences of individuality, whether it be on or off the field.
Point of no return?
That said, a captain can only put up with so much and if individuality turns into insubordination then he has to act. A captain should do all in his power to inform the individual he’s wanted in the team but the player has to be prepared to compromise. If, after exhausting all avenues a player won’t compromise and he’s a disruptive force, then it’s time to cut him loose, even if he can score a century or take five wickets.
Had it reached that point with Pietersen?
There’s a theory that Pietersen vented his feelings on the operating style of coach Andy Flower. If so it wouldn’t be the first time Pietersen has expressed a strong opinion about a coach; he was sacked as captain for speaking out against Peter Moores when he had the England job.
Is it a case of Pietersen being the player who is prepared to speak out? Doesn’t Pietersen speaking out show he cares?
Skip should be boss
The priority should be appointing the right captain, then you worry about choosing the coach. If Pietersen was considered the best man to captain England surely he deserved the right to a say in who was coach?
Nowadays, the players are outnumbered by the support staff who all have a say in team affairs. In matters affecting team spirit it’s best if the captain alone deals directly with the players. The more personalities that become involved, the more chance like and dislike will enter the selection process.
The captain — if he knows what’s good for himself — has a vested interest in having the best players in the team, as all the wins and losses go against his name. The English hierarchy make a big thing of “team culture”. Selectors can pick players of good character but team “culture” can’t be manufactured, it has to evolve through strong leadership and natural friendships.
Character only comes into selection when two players are even in ability, otherwise the best player is the wisest choice.
Cook took such a battering from Michael Clarke and his team, I believe that if he’s opposed by the same captain in 2015 he’ll be too mentally scarred to regain the Ashes. And England certainly won’t beat Australia if they don’t pick their strongest team.