January 9, 2009

Mike Holmans

Afterword

Mike Holmans



“The Pietersen Captaincy” ought to be a Robert Ludlum thriller. All the ingredients are there. We have the central character being thrust into a position for which he is woefully under-qualified and over which he has no control, with the strings being pulled by a shadowy cabal (in this case, the ECB). The action zooms from one exotic location to another, strange foreigners turn up with huge quantities of money which suddenly disappear, bombs go off, presumed allies turn out to be working for the other side, and in the end the shadowy cabal decides to eliminate our hero, though he escapes their clutches – in this case by resigning before the hit man turned up.

The merciful difference is that the average Ludlum doorstop weighs in at 700 pages, whereas the KP-as-captain interlude lasted less than five months.

The point to realise is that it was inevitable. Whether it’s Bradman, Sobers or King Viv, Botham or Flintoff, Lara or Tendulkar, whenever you have a superstar towering above a team, especially a team of relative nobodies, the superstar will inevitably be made captain at some point whether or not he is fitted for the job.

There are two possible good outcomes to this: one is the Bradman result, where it turns out that he is a brilliant captain; the other is what has happened with KP – it takes very little time for it to become apparent that he is the wrong man for the job and he leaves, whether voluntarily or not. The saga of Brian Lara, who by the end was so hated by his team that only Dwayne Bravo was prepared to speak his name, shows what disasters await the team which does not lance the boil early.

So it’s much better to have had the inevitable row now, when the team can go and pull itself back together on Caribbean beaches, than in the middle of an Ashes series in six months time. Pietersen will no doubt be very disappointed, but I expect him to get over it quickly. His overriding aim has always been to be recognised as the world’s number one batsman and after this setback, the only route to the king’s castle lies over mountains of Test runs.

It’s unfortunate for Peter Moores that he got frazzled in the shootout, because his reputation has been unfairly tarnished. His failure to inspire the England team of 2007-08 only means that he was wrong for this team at this time, not that he’s a rubbish coach who shouldn’t be employed by anyone. He would have been praised to the skies by Graham Gooch as being just the man to instil some discipline in a squad infected by the Botham-Lamb-Gower wine-quaffing axis of the late 1980s, and when he was captain, Alec Stewart would have been totally sincere when saying “Very much so” in response to Charles Colvile’s question as to whether Moores was a good coach.

The pleasant surprise in all this has been the thorough and decisive way in which the ECB have dealt with it. Hugh Morris quickly assessed the true levels of support that KP and Moores had from both the playing and support staffs, and the board did not temporise, appeal for calm and set up a working party. There’s been a big foofaraw and a lot of heated language, but it’s blown up and been settled in less than a week where under previous adminstrations we’d have been subjected to months of faction-fighting in the press while the team disintegrated. When we come to look back on this episode, we will see that it was a relatively painless rite of passage.

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Posted by James Gardener on (January 14, 2009, 9:46 GMT)

The KP saga has all the makings of a modern Othello in which the foreign born, highly accomplished Moor, husband of the lovely Desdemona falls foul of the Venetian establishment and has to cede high office to the competent, steady favourite Cassius. The intriguing questions remaining are the identity and motivation of Iago - but it was ever thus. It's probably safe to speculate that he is a right-handed batsman with a penchant for the risky stroke.

Posted by parker on (January 13, 2009, 14:56 GMT)

Who said that lara was hated by his team. First I am hearing about this and I am a west indian. This author should not make unsubstantiated statements like that.

[Mike: Since my information came from private conversations, I cannot say who told me, but two of them were former West Indies Test cricketers and another has been heavily involved in arranging the social side of West Indies tours to England for at last 20 years.]

Posted by Edward Smythe on (January 11, 2009, 6:05 GMT)

... those who the Gods want to destroy, they first make mad, indeed.

Posted by Atish_G on (January 10, 2009, 23:24 GMT)

As in real life, this is one of those cases where no one is completely right or completely wrong. KP is a tremendous bat, and with time, may have learned to manage his ego and become an effective leader. But he went about his business in precisely the wrong way, indicating that he had very little understanding of the mentality of the system that employs him. Unfortunately, now we'll never know what he could have achieved as leader. As for Moores, well, he had his chance, and was not showing any results for it, in as much an individual can be blamed for a poor team performance. His position was ultimately more expendable, and KP naively shot himself in the foot trying to achieve Moore's departure. The team is built of fairly average players (except KP and Flintoff) and unless Strauss can pull off a miracle, English cricket is liable to suffer as a result of this fracas.

Posted by Atish_G on (January 10, 2009, 23:22 GMT)

This is one of those circumstances where no one is completely right or completely wrong, much like real life. KP is a tremendous bat, and with time, may have learned to manage his ego and become an effective leader. But he went about his business in precisely the wrong way, indicating that he had very little understanding of the mentality of the system that employs him. Unfortunately, now we'll never know what he could have achieved as leader. As for Moores, well, he had his chance, and was not showing any results for it, in as much an individual can be blamed for a poor team performance. His position was ultimately more expendable, and KP naively shot himself in the foot trying to achieve Moore's departure. The team is built of fairly average players (except KP and Flintoff) and unless Strauss can pull off a miracle, English cricket is liable to suffer as a result of this fracas.

Posted by Edward Smythe on (January 10, 2009, 22:17 GMT)

I had resulcantly started to accept KP as the latest manifestation of the great British leader after his efforts in salvaging the tour of India. But with these unfolding events, I can happily go back to dismissing him as yet another redneck Springbok. Divine justice, if ever there was one.

Posted by Nampally on (January 10, 2009, 19:18 GMT)

A fine article Mike. ECB was wrong in appointing KP as the Captain becuase KP is inflexible person with a huge ego, albeit he is a batting star. Knowing KP's ego ECB should at least have got KP and Moores together and discussed their individual roles so that there were no clashes of opinion and that both are on the same page.ECB & ICI should seriously consider in starting a training program for the Captains and the Coaches so that they learn how to get along with each other rather than get into other's hair. A clearly defined role of Captain & coach is essential to avoid such conflicts in future. Some personality & behavioural training would also help. At least Strauss should have this benefit of a training session before the team leaves for WI. Can't a Head Coach be replaced by a Manager to take care of PR and admin. matters?

Posted by Venkat on (January 10, 2009, 4:54 GMT)

Good article, Mike.

Hopefully, a victory or two under the belt will go some way in alleviating the bitter taste of this whole affair. As you say it: better now than a few months later, with the Aussies at the doorstep.

As for team chemistry, big egos can be accommodated in a team, so long as there are not too many of them.

If you take the Indian team, Dravid and Tendulkar are fairly docile compared to let us say Ganguly; and, Ganguly reincarnated was a much softer person. This helped the situation (multiple ex-captains in a team).

An England team with so many voices needs a facilitator for a manager – in tune with man-management skills.

Posted by Crinaut on (January 10, 2009, 2:16 GMT)

How does ECB deserve anything except scorn for the way they have handled this?

A captain _should_ be concerned about selection and coaching and it appears KP went about in the right way by trying to approach the top-level management. Unless you think mid-level managers should not have a say about those who work with them, I think it is the KP-hatred which is trying to find silver-lining in ECB being decisive. Um, the 'decisive' action of ECB included firing Moores (why?) and installing Strauss (yes, the same Strauss who was dethroned a few years back for no reason) as ODI captain after another wait...!

Btw, who is the source of the leaks? KP or ECB? Does anyone have concrete details?

Even if you try to psychoanalyze KP (a popular pastime these days), it is ultimately the will of KP against the will of ECB's upper echelon. Why not psychoanalyze the ECB mgmt. too? Those who wield power are automatically right and the minions should know their places...?! Tsk, tsk.

Posted by Venkat on (January 10, 2009, 0:15 GMT)

Good article, Mike. Hopefully, a victory or two under the belt will go some way in alleviating the bitter taste of this whole affair. As you say it: better now than a few months later, with the Aussies at the doorstep. As for team chemistry, big egos can be accommodated in a team, so long as there are not too many of them. If you take the Indian team, Dravid and Tendulkar are fairly docile compared to let us say Ganguly; and, Ganguly reincarnated was a much softer person. This helped the situation (multiple ex-captains in a team). An England team with so many voices needs a facilitator for a manager – in tune with man-management skills.

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