Unresolved Kevin Pietersen Questions

1. If you have a player who is a jerk but also extremely capable, which quality wins out in your estimation? Recall that Rahul Dravid said earlier that we often mis-judge talent in cricket. We look at the timing, the flair and the beautiful stuff — but not the patience, character and temperament that is needed at the international level. Can we forgive an asshole in our midst if he turns the dressing room into a political minefield? Why shouldn’t we account for personality in our calculation of talent?

2. If we performed the “blind test,” would KP’s argument still hold? Let’s say that we were not discussing Pietersen but Andrew Symonds, Munaf Patel or Jesse Ryder. In all three cases, the talent is evident, but there are major issues — the first has a drinking problem and a major (very deserved) chip on the shoulder; the second simply does not want to train as hard as need be, and the third also can’t stay away from the drink. You got a problem with dropping them? No doubt, KP does not have this level of problem; on the other hand, he has signaled he is not committed to the international team and would like to pick and choose each Test he plays and he thinks his captain is worthy of ridicule. Unless you’re Tendulkar, that’s not an option, surely.

3. Piers Morgan said something like this: “The ECB are hypocrites because they want KP to be brash and bold on the field, but shy and demur off.” Assume that this point of view is correct and, in fact, no one pays to see dullards like Jonathan Trott or A. Cook. Why do we want our players to be saints off the field? There used to be a time when we saw the sportsman as an ideal to emulate, but that was before modern rigors of practice, training and ultra-sequestration reduced many athletes to very capable Frankensteins. (I mean, did you see what those Olympic swimmers’ bodies looked like?) We can’t look anymore to these men for life advice. We can admire their commitment and their skills and feats, but increasingly, that should be the end of the matter.

Now, Morgan’s argument fails because in this case, KP wasn’t cheating on his wife, or punching fans at bars, or driving drunk. No, he was doing something that impacted the “on the field” — the unity of the team. I’ve heard it said that valuing the “unity of the team” to this extent is a misguided, management-speak approach to running a game. Perhaps. On the other hand, again, we have seen many teams underachieve because of internal rifts — need I mention Pakistan? Recall, also, the familiar complaint that India’s cricket team is merely a collection of superstars, not a team of equal individuals. Why not care about your team like it’s your family?

So far, you must have the impression that I’m with the ECB on this one. And I am! I like KP, but I’m not a fan of superstar economics. The eternal rule still applies: never bite the hand that feeds you. I guess this isn’t so unresolved after all.


4 thoughts on “Unresolved Kevin Pietersen Questions

  1. Russ says:

    Much rests on the extent a team under-performs because of rifts, and the extent they under-perform because players aren’t comfortable in the team ethic (or are forced out of the team, because of it). While it is true that Australia tolerated Warne and his issues with captains and coaches – mind you, Warne was right – plenty of players got moved on in the era of Steve Waugh’s rah-rah baggy green nonsense (mostly Victorians actually). And their performances in ’08-10 took on an air of delusional, telling the press they thought they were great when they clearly weren’t, complaining about mates being dropped and press campaigns against under-performing players.

    There are hints of bullying of outsiders in the English camp, and the more they talk of team unity, the more it looks like a reason to play people they like on a personal level. Which is fine, until they start losing, then people will start wondering why an under-performing captain is still there, and their best batsman is not.

  2. cric27 says:

    I think the team should be blamed if the “team-unity” is really being affected on the field.
    Obviously, this is very subjective. My view is that the best 11 should play and issues in the dressing room should stay there, no matter how serious. In the case of KP, he’s been dropped for sending text messages (and that is all, according to the ECB). What’s the big deal with ridiculing a captain in a private communication? I doubt if there were no comments passed on KPs captaincy in Cooks dining room.

    Take the case of the Bryan brothers in tennis. They were hardly on speaking terms but won nearly every doubles tournament there was. Cricket has more room for individual “cricketing talent” than any other sport. KP is a big big loss and I hope England feel the pinch in this test match itself. Otherwise, a lot of people will delude themselves into believing that dropping KP was the right move.

    With all this talk of not giving KP preferential treatment, the ECB has over-corrected by treating him wrong. More importantly, it sets a poor precedent for the future. None of the English players have distinguished themselves in my eyes by siding openly with the ECB against a man who once captained them. This, more than any diplomatic speech, shows the real character of all the players involved. While KP has made a lot of effort (poor PR, but still) to bridge the gap, the ECB and Strauss in particular have only shown their contempt for the man.

  3. Golandaaz says:

    The notion that winning teams have to be united and full of rational thinking and behaving people, is for fairy tales. The best of teams have had their differences and disruptive individuals, including some winning Pakistani, Australian and Indian teams.

    ECB’s message to the team should have been simple….England’s best chance of winning is with KP in the team. Go figure out a way to work with this jerk….

    I believe the ECB wants to settle something more with KP. They essentially do not want players dictating terms including the sane ones and are using KP’s personality to send that message.

  4. Last Strauss says:

    And all this without getting into how Broad, Swann and co can get away with public sniping or public encouragement of sniping at Pietersen. If he felt insecure and moody in that environment, is he the only one to blame.

    How would you feel if you negotiated a contract with your Company and they leaked the details to public, with a spin on it making you look like the only greedy party?

    ECB havent earned KP’s trust. They are equally to blame. All these blinkers they are putting on to distract the real issues is shameful.

    Hope Flower and Strauss show the decency and dignity they are beong praised for – and address Kp’s issues with the team clique as much as the clique’s issues with him.

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