August 16, 2013

How to handle Pietersen

Give genius players like him the freedom and appreciation they desire and they'll win matches for you more often than not
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It was just over 11 months ago that on an unusually pleasant morning in Colombo I found myself driving down to Mount Lavinia. Elsewhere, with the World Twenty20 on, hotel lobbies were abuzz, journalists with darting eyes were looking for something no one else might have noticed, autograph books were being whipped out faster than credit cards, and players were everywhere, but this hotel in Mount Lavinia was quiet. It lay in a secluded corner, and that, for one of its guests, was its most attractive feature.

Kevin Pietersen was all over the English media and, not for the first, or indeed the last, time, it had little to do with his extraordinary ability to play cricket. He had been left out of the side, the strongest adjectives were being dusted away to describe him, and there was a debate on whether he should play for England again. He was being asked to apologise, effectively to kneel down in a classroom, and get a promise of good conduct signed by his parents for the class teacher. It was unbelievable and I was a bit baffled because the Pietersen I had come across had seemed a bit different.

It threw up a fascinating dilemma. England needed the match-winner in him but England needed him to be a conformist. The two qualities haven't always co-existed within one person. Indeed it is worth studying whether match-winners actually become so because they dare to question the given.

In the world of business and management, which I like to watch from the sidelines, managing mavericks has always been a challenge. And it was thus that I asked Pietersen if he would talk to me on camera. I was quite keen to know how people like him liked to be handled. Given the circumstances I was quite prepared for him to say no. Instead, he said yes, gave me an appointment and was ready when I reached his hotel. He was extremely pleasant, and when I asked if he could replace his vest, which showed up his biceps and his tattoos, with something a little less dramatic, he popped back straightaway and emerged in a polo shirt.

The person who came through in the conversation, though, was scarcely a rebel. It was clear that he knew he was a better player than almost anybody else in the game, but it was also clear that he took great pride in playing for England and that he worked very hard at his game. It confirmed my view about these extraordinary performers - that when no one is watching, they are working their backsides off, that at the heart of what seems to be genius is a lot of toil. Certainly that was true of Warne and Akram, and is of Tendulkar.

It was clear he was uncomfortable in the existing set-up that sought to discipline him. How would he handle himself, or another like him, I asked. He wanted to be left alone from time to time, he said. He would, he said, train as hard as anyone else, work on his game and be prepared. Nobody would accuse him of shirking. But he wanted his space, he wanted the freedom to do things his way. It is not uncommon among super-achievers.

Cricket needs Pietersen as it needed Warne, and it needs leaders to understand their genius. Without their spice it will be a vanilla game

These are people who know their game inside out, read situations differently, and find ways to deal with them that may not always be apparent to everybody. Almost certainly their solutions will be unique to their talents, difficult for someone else to replicate. These are nature's freaks and that is why they are breathtaking to watch. And that is why they cannot be trapped by a system. They need to be handled differently; you cannot crack the whip and get them to sit on a stool as once-proud animals might in a circus. Having had the great joy of spending some time with Shane Warne, I could see why he and Pietersen understood each other so well.

It doesn't mean they are always right. A month later Pietersen was in Ahmedabad playing the two most bizarre innings you can imagine. Against Pragyan Ojha on a mild turner, he looked lost, his feet were out of tune with his bat, and it was a very strange spectacle. He didn't look like he was born to captivate people with his bat. Which is, of course, exactly what he did a week later on a far more difficult pitch in Mumbai. That innings of 186 will never be forgotten by those who had the privilege to watch it.

When asked what he did different in the course of a breathtakingly aggressive innings, he offered a thoughtful answer. "I backed my defence," he said. But he didn't get consumed by it. Once his defence had taken him past a vulnerable phase, he unfurled his shots again. It was the turning point of the series. England won it but they also learnt how to live with Pietersen.

The best managers will tell you that the most effective way to handle such gifted mavericks is to befriend them and offer them challenges. Like everyone else they are in need of comfort, they want to be liked, their ego requires their achievement to be acknowledged. In effect they are asking for an inch, and if you grant them that, they are ready to deliver a mile. Seek to bottle them and they will turn headstrong.

You can see why Pietersen likes the IPL. He is left alone, he is paid well, the ego is gently stroked, but the franchise gets more out of him than most people think. For the Delhi Daredevils, Pietersen is value for money, not a luxury purchase.

In the Ashes he has looked happier, and his century* has contributed greatly to a series win. I don't know if it is an uneasy truce or there has been a warm embrace. His masterclass with Sky Sports reaffirmed what a thoughtful and hard-working cricketer he is. Cricket needs Pietersen as it needed Warne, and it needs leaders to understand their genius. Without their spice it will be a vanilla game.

05:18:11 GMT, August 16, 2013: The article originally said Pietersen had scored two centuries in the first four Tests of the Ashes

Harsha Bhogle is a television presenter, writer, and a commentator on IPL and other cricket. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TenDonebyaShooter on August 18, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    How sick am I of reading claptrap referring to people like Pietersen as a "genius". I know we are all supposed to be cricket fans, but let's try and live in the real world for a minute. Clonking a bit of leather with a bit of wood, no matter how many times and how efficiently you do it, can never make anyone a "genius", and certainly not the likes of Pietersen. Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Paulo Freire - now those are geniuses. Pietersen and his ilk in contrast are overpaid, overpraised and good for very little.

  • on August 17, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    one of the examples in terms of skills, character,guile,situation reading,perform when most needed, calm is one and only MS Dhoni. he achieved so much in cricket rather than century and controversy here and there. pieterson is nothing special in fact behind ian bell who proved with time his consistency and perform in need approach. piet is too over rated and big share is his stardom and media frenzy presence.

  • Sir_Ivor on August 17, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen used to play for Kwa Zulu Natal in the South African domestic tournament, I think the Currie Cup. He was then an off spin bowler. In fact in the late 90s in England's game against Kwa Zulu Natal( Michael Vaughn was the captain of England then), Pietersen played as a bowler and did fairly well. The next i heard of him was when he came to India to play for the England Lions possibly in the early 2000s as a member of the tem invited to play in the Duleep trophy. He made a big mark and that is what has made him so liked in India apart from his having played for Royal Challengers and later Delhi Daredevils in the IPL. Then again when evry one was against the England team coming to India in the aftermath of the 26/11 tragedy, Kevin said that he was coming. That is what has perhaps made him so popular in India. He likes to be liked and recognised as being special. Like Botham. Brerley recognised him and he played so well. Pietersen is the same.His background will say why.

  • LourensGrobbelaar on August 17, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    @sarangsrk @colourpenguin You refer to the way that Pietersen disrespected his team and its members and how someone like Sachin gets respect while being a great player vs Pietersens need to work on his iage. But what came first: was it Pietersen's disrespect and badboy image or was it others who did not value him and disrespected him that came first. To me it appeared as a reaction to others who first disrespected him, and him being honest enough to call it as it is. If they valued him and gave him place to be himself his image and actions would have been different.

  • cric_J on August 17, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    @KingOwl : You said "How does one tell Jimmy Anderson that he does not deserve special treatment, that he is ordinary, that he does not deserve space ? "

    Now, just WHAT exactly made you say that about someone as humble, as straightforward and as no-nonsense as Jimmy Anderson id absolutely beyond me and pretty much everyone else.

    How does one tell YOU that even though Jimmy has been one of the most valuable players of this English team, that even though he is one of the best England cricketers of all time, that even though he is one of the top seamers in the world in the last decade, that even though he rightfully deserves all the space that he gets and maybe even more, the fact remains that he doesn't want to be given a special treatment. That he wants to be miles away from any controversy or trash talk. That he is not an attention seeker. That he is absolutely pleased wih the space that he gets and wants no more of it whatsoever !!

  • on August 17, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    More than anything I like the way Harsha b has presented it. Like KP, he too needs some credit.

  • RoshanDgreat on August 17, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    Good Article Harsha ! I think more than the Cricket Board it's role of Coach and Captain to handle notorious but effective talents like KP, Warne, Afridi or Virat. One should learn from how Ponting held together one of the best talents of Modern era in likes of Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Gilchrist, Lee and many more. As a leader you simply give them your tasks and should not follow it like tution teacher day and night. This guys will surely deliver for you, just give them their space and respect they need. It's very hard to maintain and retain good talent because most of them are like that only. With no disregard to players like Dravid, Kallis or Misbah, but cricket really needs players like Afridi and KP to keep interest of viewers. It's their different character that makes this game alive.

  • Greatest_Game on August 17, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    @ class9ryan. You wrote that "one of the underrated innings of his is that against a bowling unit boasting of Steyn, Morkel and Philander on a pitch where Cook, Strauss, Trott,etc failed at Lords."

    KP did not play in the SA vs Eng test at Lords. The ECB dropped him ……. and the Mace!

  • Greatest_Game on August 17, 2013, 4:14 GMT

    Follow the money. Always follow the money.

    KP generates lots of income for cricket teams. He is a valuable brand, & sponsors love him because he draws TV viewers. The ECB's REAL problem was that in the IPL, KP makes loads of cash for Dehli, & NOT FOR THE ECB!! Their sponsors were not happy. Sky was not happy. They had paid for Brand KP! The ECB's stance was a message to THEIR clients - don't worry, we'll rein in the cash cow!

    Then the ECB scored an own goal, & DROPPED the cash cow!! Their clients must have hit the roof, & they had to scramble to get him back. Collier tried to "wag the dog" by blaming SA for 'textgate.' Brilliant - yet another round of bad press & some groveling. The final blow? ESPN Star Sports hired KP as a TV commentator for the World T20, & he ended up working for the competition!!! A textbook management disaster, perfect for the MBA course in "How to Get all the Staff AND the Clients in a Tizzy."

    Its not about KP. Its about BRAND KP.

    Follow the money!

  • JohnnyRook on August 17, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    @ThyrSaadam." some of them are conformists, who dont really rebel". The problem is they will soon start rebelling when they see KP being given special treatment.

  • TenDonebyaShooter on August 18, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    How sick am I of reading claptrap referring to people like Pietersen as a "genius". I know we are all supposed to be cricket fans, but let's try and live in the real world for a minute. Clonking a bit of leather with a bit of wood, no matter how many times and how efficiently you do it, can never make anyone a "genius", and certainly not the likes of Pietersen. Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Paulo Freire - now those are geniuses. Pietersen and his ilk in contrast are overpaid, overpraised and good for very little.

  • on August 17, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    one of the examples in terms of skills, character,guile,situation reading,perform when most needed, calm is one and only MS Dhoni. he achieved so much in cricket rather than century and controversy here and there. pieterson is nothing special in fact behind ian bell who proved with time his consistency and perform in need approach. piet is too over rated and big share is his stardom and media frenzy presence.

  • Sir_Ivor on August 17, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen used to play for Kwa Zulu Natal in the South African domestic tournament, I think the Currie Cup. He was then an off spin bowler. In fact in the late 90s in England's game against Kwa Zulu Natal( Michael Vaughn was the captain of England then), Pietersen played as a bowler and did fairly well. The next i heard of him was when he came to India to play for the England Lions possibly in the early 2000s as a member of the tem invited to play in the Duleep trophy. He made a big mark and that is what has made him so liked in India apart from his having played for Royal Challengers and later Delhi Daredevils in the IPL. Then again when evry one was against the England team coming to India in the aftermath of the 26/11 tragedy, Kevin said that he was coming. That is what has perhaps made him so popular in India. He likes to be liked and recognised as being special. Like Botham. Brerley recognised him and he played so well. Pietersen is the same.His background will say why.

  • LourensGrobbelaar on August 17, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    @sarangsrk @colourpenguin You refer to the way that Pietersen disrespected his team and its members and how someone like Sachin gets respect while being a great player vs Pietersens need to work on his iage. But what came first: was it Pietersen's disrespect and badboy image or was it others who did not value him and disrespected him that came first. To me it appeared as a reaction to others who first disrespected him, and him being honest enough to call it as it is. If they valued him and gave him place to be himself his image and actions would have been different.

  • cric_J on August 17, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    @KingOwl : You said "How does one tell Jimmy Anderson that he does not deserve special treatment, that he is ordinary, that he does not deserve space ? "

    Now, just WHAT exactly made you say that about someone as humble, as straightforward and as no-nonsense as Jimmy Anderson id absolutely beyond me and pretty much everyone else.

    How does one tell YOU that even though Jimmy has been one of the most valuable players of this English team, that even though he is one of the best England cricketers of all time, that even though he is one of the top seamers in the world in the last decade, that even though he rightfully deserves all the space that he gets and maybe even more, the fact remains that he doesn't want to be given a special treatment. That he wants to be miles away from any controversy or trash talk. That he is not an attention seeker. That he is absolutely pleased wih the space that he gets and wants no more of it whatsoever !!

  • on August 17, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    More than anything I like the way Harsha b has presented it. Like KP, he too needs some credit.

  • RoshanDgreat on August 17, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    Good Article Harsha ! I think more than the Cricket Board it's role of Coach and Captain to handle notorious but effective talents like KP, Warne, Afridi or Virat. One should learn from how Ponting held together one of the best talents of Modern era in likes of Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Gilchrist, Lee and many more. As a leader you simply give them your tasks and should not follow it like tution teacher day and night. This guys will surely deliver for you, just give them their space and respect they need. It's very hard to maintain and retain good talent because most of them are like that only. With no disregard to players like Dravid, Kallis or Misbah, but cricket really needs players like Afridi and KP to keep interest of viewers. It's their different character that makes this game alive.

  • Greatest_Game on August 17, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    @ class9ryan. You wrote that "one of the underrated innings of his is that against a bowling unit boasting of Steyn, Morkel and Philander on a pitch where Cook, Strauss, Trott,etc failed at Lords."

    KP did not play in the SA vs Eng test at Lords. The ECB dropped him ……. and the Mace!

  • Greatest_Game on August 17, 2013, 4:14 GMT

    Follow the money. Always follow the money.

    KP generates lots of income for cricket teams. He is a valuable brand, & sponsors love him because he draws TV viewers. The ECB's REAL problem was that in the IPL, KP makes loads of cash for Dehli, & NOT FOR THE ECB!! Their sponsors were not happy. Sky was not happy. They had paid for Brand KP! The ECB's stance was a message to THEIR clients - don't worry, we'll rein in the cash cow!

    Then the ECB scored an own goal, & DROPPED the cash cow!! Their clients must have hit the roof, & they had to scramble to get him back. Collier tried to "wag the dog" by blaming SA for 'textgate.' Brilliant - yet another round of bad press & some groveling. The final blow? ESPN Star Sports hired KP as a TV commentator for the World T20, & he ended up working for the competition!!! A textbook management disaster, perfect for the MBA course in "How to Get all the Staff AND the Clients in a Tizzy."

    Its not about KP. Its about BRAND KP.

    Follow the money!

  • JohnnyRook on August 17, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    @ThyrSaadam." some of them are conformists, who dont really rebel". The problem is they will soon start rebelling when they see KP being given special treatment.

  • class9ryan on August 17, 2013, 2:28 GMT

    Modern day greats as we call them !!! The modern era wants to see Kevin Pietersen, Ab de Villiers, Virat Kohli(still some way to go ) who have achieved success in all forms the game. But their performance in the pinnacle format matters and none of them has a bad record. These are the players who have brought new fans into the games and hope these all would end up as legends.

  • Viswasam on August 17, 2013, 2:26 GMT

    Great article Harsha. It is interesting that on the one hand you note that in conversation Pietersen scarcely comes across as a rebel. Also, he works hard at his game, is extremely proud to represent England and his need to win and be appreciated is in line with taking English cricket forwards and upwards. Is this what defines a maverick? I understand his genius and perhaps the fact that he knows it too bothers the world - but as opposed to being a maverick I kind of see him as a player who has a distinct "X" factor - a player who can singlehandedly turn a team sport into a individualistic contest. I remember the classic Gooch vs Gower situation and Gower is less the maverick because of seemingly being the mild mannered gentle humourist off the pitch as he was a genius on it. I believe the maverick is defined more by off the pitch stuff than by what is achieved on the field of play.

  • class9ryan on August 17, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    Surely he's the star Batsman in England currently and arguably plays well in all the three forms of the game better than anybody in England. Kevin's 186 would be remembered as a masterclass on a absolute rank-turner for ages. one of the underrated innings of his is that against a bowling unit boasting of Steyn, Morkel and Philander on a pitch where Cook, Strauss, Trott,etc failed at Lords.

  • skkh on August 16, 2013, 22:51 GMT

    A player who tweets to the opposing team the weak points of his fellow players should be booted out of the team irrespective of his being a Pietersen or anybody else. How can one justify his hurting his team's interests and forgive him? Harsha if an Indian player did the same would you say the same? Nonsense.

  • orangtan on August 16, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    Good article, we expect nothing less from Harsha, but getting down to specifics, KP is definitely over the hill. He is as vulnerable against Nathan Lyon as he has been against left-armers, he is playing wild shots and has become injury-prone. One wonders if he will make the Ashes tour Down Under.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 16, 2013, 21:11 GMT

    I can understand KP has a big ego but so do many other superstars in all walks of life. He might not be a saint but the way the ECB handled his case was next to shameful. The ECB clearly lack man-management skills. They wanted the world only to hear their side of the story. Obviously, KP had issues with them. Everyone thinks all is rosy between KP and the ECB, but let me tell you, it is not that simple. KP is still his own entity within the English dressing room. It is very obvious from the way he conducts himself. There is a clear distance between him and the rest of the England players. Such things don't get press time because they (England) are doing well in test cricket. Also, the ECB would have paid big bucks to ensure KP complied to their terms. Still, can't see him staying away from the IPL. He is way too popular in India and such things spur him on.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on August 16, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    Having invented more shots than anyone else in the game since WG Grace, Pietersen can be described as a cricketing genius. I just can't wait to see him Switch-Hit Lyon for 6 the final test.

  • Nutcutlet on August 16, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    What is this article really saying? It's not saying allow KP to do just as he likes (because that's the way you get the best out of him) very far from it (& KP himself knows precisely where the perameters lie, having pushed against them over a year ago now). No, it boils down to two words: 'manage sensitively.' No experienced teacher will find any difficulty in accepting that; it's what all successful teachers do to get the best behaviour & performance from their charges.. A student will produce her/his best when s/he's offered planty of encouragement - and for those who need it (the less secure students) a lot of ego-boosting (or 'being gently stroked'' as we have it here). But there are rules, fences, beyond which you cannot go. Any betrayal of the team ethic is one; any placing of self first to the detriment of others is another. But if things are in good order initially, there should neither be the desire nor the motivation to break out, effectively expelling/ suspending yourself.

  • DJRoe on August 16, 2013, 19:50 GMT

    Interesting article indeed! I would have expected some more substance from Harshsa. Firstly - this cricketer is all for himself and not a team player always. Look at his actions of contacting the South African players. Who can show support pro-porting him to be a great player? Realistically - he is good but not great yet. Look at the matches - how much has he helped England win? Look at the low amount of test centuries scored? And finally his attitude - he should be lucky to be on the team and act accordingly. I would like to raise the issue again of his technique - look at his batting stance: he takes a middle or leg stump guard and is moving, covering his stumps with his legs before the bowler delivers - no fairness as a batsman. I say - compare this with other good batsmen and state your claim.

  • Vilander on August 16, 2013, 18:18 GMT

    What KP needs to know is that millions of Indians just adore him for his skill in the cricket field and the entertainment he brings, if it is worthwhile then its a good side effect. Keep on doing what you do KP..we like seeing you every year here...

  • on August 16, 2013, 18:10 GMT

    Superb article. Always a pleasure to read something written by you Harsha, renews my faith in the fact that Indians can be rational and praise players from countries other than India, unlike a small percentage of the Indian fanboys who spout complete drivel!

  • on August 16, 2013, 18:05 GMT

    Amazing article !!

    I have a feeling (and I may be wrong here) that Andrew Symonds was in the same league but had problems with Micheal Clarke which caused his downfall and guess Shane Watson is another who is currently having similar problems.

  • on August 16, 2013, 17:19 GMT

    One of the most useful and insightful articles i have seen in recent times. It reminds me of Mario Ballotelli of Italy. His managers and coaching staff often get upset with his antics but they have learned to become his silent friend.

  • landl47 on August 16, 2013, 17:08 GMT

    @Game-Gazer: what I'd say is look at Shane Warne. CA (which in those days knew what they were doing) were prepared to give him certain accommodations, but were very firm on some basic principles. Without going into a long dissertation, what it came down to was the team comes first. Any individual who tries to put his personal wishes above the interests of the side is not going to make the team stronger no matter how brilliant he is on those occasions when he deigns to turn up.

    Pietersen, to his credit, eventually realized he was wrong. Had management simply caved to his demands I guarantee England would not have become the unified and strong side it now is- and look at England's record since the KP issue was settled. Strong management creates a strong team.

  • on August 16, 2013, 16:10 GMT

    Harsha does it again, he is one sublime writer when it comes to writing non-technical stuff of game ( mind u, he is not bad in technical either )...players like KP do need personal space for once they are guaranteed of that, they are going to deliver most of the times..they bring the color of flamboyancy which u need to make the game interesting but at the same time they don't often forget to raise the bar that has in fact been previously set by them ...and as far as that Mumbai innings (181) is concerned, i believe it was that KP's knock which won that series for England...absolutely taking nothing away from cooky though...he was at his usual best too :)

  • on August 16, 2013, 15:53 GMT

    Brilliant article Harsha, it is very true that one size fits all approach is not always applicable.Even more so in the cases of players like KP.However, KP should also understand that he is not bigger than the game and there are some protocols which should be maintained.

  • on August 16, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    "he answer lies early in the article, some of them are conformists, who dont really rebel, and just want to get things done without anything affecting them."

    If conformism is treated as being inferior, there will be resentment. And in KP's case, it was KP who relented not the board.

    Cook, Trott, Prior, Anderson and Swann are equally good as KP and even Bell is approaching similar status.

  • coherent_critic on August 16, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    no doubt kp is special talent but he is not in the league of players like tendulkar, dravid ,kallis, lara, ponting, cook, amla ...these players have perform more consistently and won more matches for their sides without asking for special treatment...so this special treatment to kp you are talking about is not fair to these players..and kp was wrong in sending messages and i hope he would have realised that

  • ThyrSaadam on August 16, 2013, 14:27 GMT

    @KingOwl - " But how does one tell Jimmy Anderson that he does not deserve special treatment, that he is ordinary, that he does not deserve space?" - The answer lies early in the article, some of them are conformists, who dont really rebel, and just want to get things done without anything affecting them.

  • on August 16, 2013, 13:34 GMT

    If memory serves me KP didnt want to play t20 cricket for England because of his hectic schedule. He was then sacked after the sms incident. Now he wants to play all forms of cricket for England and there is no talk of hectic schedule. Seems like cracking the whip has worked with this tiger. Kinda disproves ur theory of freedom.

  • KingOwl on August 16, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    Interesting article. As a reader of management literature, I can say that what you have said is not at all surprising. As a Sri Lankan, I would like to see Lasith Malinga managed that way, given the run-ins he has had with coaching staff, media, etc. The challenge is to explain to the others in the team why some are treated in a special way. That requires genius on the part of management as well. If the article addressed that point, it would have been insightful. At the moment, it pretty much states the obvious. Saying that KP needs special treatment is easy. But how does one tell Jimmy Anderson that he does not deserve special treatment, that he is ordinary, that he does not deserve space? How does one tell that to Swanne? And a few others as well.

  • CricketPissek on August 16, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    @salazar555 - your point is valid, but you have to look at the opportunity cost from the England point of view. Who would you replace KP with? Cook will be known as an All time great and Trott is an excellent grinder. KP's ability and style complements them. His personality is something England have to deal with because when he's happy, he is an AMAZING asset to have. KP is pure class, but he's only a nightmare for poor managers. Strong leaders can play with fire and not get burnt.

  • CricPrachi on August 16, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    Sir, time and again you surprise me with the different angles you bring in cricket. you have brought out a very relevant point never thought of.

  • on August 16, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Slightly off topic, but.... Hope cricket fans here saw KP's batting masterclass done for Sky TV. If not, do a search for it - very worthwhile. It shows an extremely likeable chap talking about batting with real passion. What an insight into the way he's thinking when in the middle. Fascinating.

  • on August 16, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    Confidence brings pride and ego and passionate emotional cricketer will test the boundaries unintentionally.. I think as long as actions don't hurt the team or people it should be ok to be little competitive especially if he is one of the finest player of modern cricket.

  • Amit_13 on August 16, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    The other less spoken thing sometimes is their determination to overcome... the scale and nature of challenge is mostly irrelevant. If the task is sold to an individual like Pietersen, the person exists purely to deliver it. In a people related / team related situation... it is important to quietly acknowledge that he can deliver what most can dream of on their birthdays. Pietersen has had to prove himself in two countries as a top cricketer. First as a bowler in RSA and then a maverick batsman in Engl. Similarly, in case of Shane Warne, he played his best at times of personal turmoil. The harder you make it, the more they want it.

    I believe Tendulkar (in the later years) is a rarer genius. He has achieved his nirvana. With Warne, KP and to some extent Lara, the genius was in its innovation and fight. With SRT, it is a mastery borne from content.

    Type 8 to type 8!!!

  • Manush on August 16, 2013, 10:47 GMT

    KP is one the best attractive batsman like Kallis, Ponting and Sachin and when he settles down, reminds you of Vivian Richards by his arrogant strokes.The Media has been unnecessarily trying to project all negatives about him.He has contributed in a big way along with the bowlers to make England a strong team, minus his contributions England will be at the bottom competing with West indies and Bangladesh for the last spot.!!!. In tough situations he excels like Ponting, Waugh and Kallis.Cricket and England need him to be playing for along time.

  • hhillbumper on August 16, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    sarthik calling Lara conformist is a joke.There is an arguement that he sped the downfall of the west indies dynasty by his behaviour in and around the team.He had issues with each coach he had including Andy Roberts who knows more about cricket than most

  • Katey on August 16, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    Different management styles for different players doesn't equal different rules. Boards (and coaches) can become rigid and authoritarian, and insist that all the players wear size 8 shoes because, well because they say so.

    England need the fighting spirit of Pietersen on the field, but it's part of the man, and he can't just switch it off once the game is over. A good manager/coach will avoid making him feel they are in opposition off the field. Rather he should be made to feel that they are on his side, and that's where managerial skill comes in. Because they may actually disagree with him about many things, and may really need him to change, but the skill is in putting it to him in such a way that he doesn't feel threatened.

    There's many way of telling someone a dress doesn't suit her. A good friend is someone who can tell you unpleasant facts without causing a fight.

  • Game_Gazer on August 16, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    landl47 and Harsha, modern human resource management principles & practices are influenced strongly by the need to establish equity among people. While equity is a noble thought and is required to maintain spirit in a society/team, it does not help manage freak talents..and it must !...tough problem indeed... To be deliberately rude for an argument's sake, why should one treat a Glenn Mcgrath & and a medicore fast-medium bowler with the same respect & privileges should they happen to play in the same team ? One delivers great results consistently and another barely manages to stay in the team...Hence, why should the packages (money + vacation/breaks + practice flexibility) etc..in you management language) not be customized for each ?!

  • Iddo555 on August 16, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    No one man is bigger than the team, England fans know this and respect it. Pietersen is a great player but his average in test cricket is no different to Cook, Bell and Trott. Those players don't expect special treatment so why should Pietersen?

  • Super Dons on August 16, 2013, 10:02 GMT

    Superb article as always Harsha. Such genius struggle when they ve to carry others alongwith them but left to their own devices their performances turn incredible... It is true not only for people on the cricket field but in every walk of life. As u rightly mention once people like Pietersen, Warne, Tendulkar are left on their own, they come out with such unbelievably creative solutions that one cannot help standing & applauding. Great read!

  • GrtIndia_Ann on August 16, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    @sandy_bangalore:I am afraid i have to disagree with your opinion in all aspects...firstly...KP in my view is not even in top three test batsman...and there are hell a number of tons played by Indian players on tough pitches of Oz,SA and Eng...check the tons of Sachin,Rahul, etc...you seem to have a prejudice about Indian batsman...

  • JohnnyRook on August 16, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    I don't agree with this article at all. You can't have different set of rules for different people. Sure England management can try to give him as much space as possible and motivate in a way which is best for him but thats all. It can stoke his ego as much as he wants as long as others don't feel resented. He can't have different fitness standard or net sessions. If you allow a team member to get away with criticizing his colleagues and other general indiscipline, the biggest risk is to soon have 10 other players who are exhibiting exactly same behavior.

  • liz1558 on August 16, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Pietersen is the best batsman to play for England since the '50s, and a very likable if complex character. However, the view that the England management were tearing the wings off a butterfly when dealing with him last year is way off the mark. It completely overlooks the fact that what he did in sending defamatory messages about his own captain to the opposition was deserving of being dropped and sacked. It was right that the England management made a stand on the principle that his feelings aren't bigger than the game. And he needed to understand that. You could make a strong point to say they were wrong to make him grovel, but they were right to make him repentant.

  • kennyg on August 16, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    Cricket is and will always be a team sport. Winning or losing a match or series is shouldered by the eleven men or women on any given day, as has the current Ashes series has proven. Gifted individuals in their overall success must incorporate the team concept and recognition into their talented personality. A prime example of such an individual is the one and only Sachin Tendulkar who can simultaneously display his genius and also motivate the collective team efforts and talents. When this falls short, it is easy to discern the talented player has allowed his or her ego to command the moment, and team problems arise. Sound management skills must take actions to curb the detrimental impact on the team and put team ahead of any one given individual, no matter how talented or gifted that individual is. Harsha needs to temper his enthusiasm for the individual and protect the best interests of the team, whose collective input wins or loses matches.

  • Martensad on August 16, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    I'm sure KP is a prickly character, but the England management's handling of him has been poor, from leaking and hanging him out to dry as captain, refusing to listen to his quite reasonable request to sit out ODIs to those texts that nobody ever actually saw, to the abusive "banter" he received from team mates on twitter. At the heart of it is probably the fact that he is not regarded as properly English. Other English mavericks, such as Botham and Boycott, were given the sort of management that Bogle is suggesting.

  • Cyril_Knight on August 16, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    Great to have a pro Pietersen piece. Kevin is a really nice bloke, patient and outgoing. The trouble with Kevin is that he is a natural leader and he is not shy. But when he is in the field, to avoid cramping his captain's style, he has to stay quiet and can appear aloof. He wants to be involved, give his opinion, but he knows that because he is "KP" people watching will interpret it as arrogance, "I know better than you, so listen!" With more articles like this, hopefully those watching will appreciate the real Kevin Pietersen, the superb attacking batsmen, the man who never gives up in the field, the polite father and husband.

  • WAKE_UP_CALL on August 16, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    "Cricket needs Pietersen as it needed Warne, and it needs leaders to understand their genius. Without their spice it will be a vanilla game."it sums up nicely .Cricket needs players who follow their own paths.it is team game but not so like football.At any given time it is a contest between two individuals (batsman and bowler) regardless of pitch conditions the top players will always make a contest worth watching.Here comes the captain's or may be a coach's role to draw the true potential out if its players even if they are not best at hugging their team members.All they have to make sure is each player is made to realize their importance for the goal to be achieved and not to be distracted with "worldly things

  • Knightriders_suck on August 16, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    ECB could have told him that if you want to take a rest, go ahead but you have to get in line to get back in team. Similar to what BCCI told it's players when there was talk of burnout. ECB is just a stupid organization in general, the administrators have egos which are Mt.Everest's compared to KP's Scafell Pike. This organization is vindictive with it's players, which it has no right to be. Any organization has to be friendly to it's stakeholders, ECB just seems to think they are the principles of some school.

  • king_julien on August 16, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Well a sword cuts both ways I feel..most of the boards become rigid and are unable to handle players like Pietersen as pointed out by Harsha. But there's another side to it too, If a player is given too much leeway then it might create a situation where rest of the players feel that one player is given too much of a star treatment and team spirit might suffer. When the board/coach becomes too much of a disciplinarian whole teams can get destroyed, but if too much room is provided for one, other players might start thinking of it as favoritism or star culture.

    Hence it's also about balance.The board, the coach and captain all need to work that out. How the management achieve the balance..well it their job, they are just not paid for selecting a team, but getting out the best out of them too. Gary Kirsten as a coach did that very well in India. While Greg was too much of a disciplinarian and on other hand Duncan..well no one knows his way, but I am guessing its on other end of spectrum

  • gsingh7 on August 16, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    spot on HARSHA. Some players are special in a group of players and deserve special treatment. kp is best 'english' cricketer, so he commands more respect from his team mates and ECB. he felt he was marginalized and so withdrew from playing t20 world cup of which england were holders. what happened?? england crashed out even before the knockout rounds. ECB had to swallow the bitter pill and accomodate the batting marvel dat is kp. KP is the master of his own destiny.

  • on August 16, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    KP with regards to his on n off records behavior has always been a contradictory point of discussion.With purview of Harsha article, I might as well think that KP deserve more respect than he is getting as of now but his arrogant attitude has been a major point of concern for him, but English cricket is so much revolutionized since KP started scoring runs for his team, he is a priceless asset in the team. I remember Ganguly's comment when KP was not selected for India's tour held last year, "We are lucky that KP not there in the team,but with respect to cricket I will think that Eng should settle KP vows soon, otherwise they will lose their backbone". True words Dada, I too feel that KP should be used efficiently to squeeze good score for England.

  • on August 16, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    As a South African I have a different view. The bloke comes across arrogant, and has a huge ego. I respect him though - the sledging he took in SA years ago was disgraceful, yet he still scored big runs. He is a massive loss to SA cricket.

    The ECB have treated him unfairly at times - I thought they handled the captaincy issues terribly. But he overstepped the line as well and they put him in his place - rightly so, no-one is bigger than the game, and you need unity in a team sport. Harsha I agree with you though that the benefits of good management for individuals like him are massive - if done right hes world class and one of those players who can take the game away in a session. Great to watch.

  • on August 16, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Harsha, All the players that you have mentioned in your article (and mentioned in Comments section) have had successful careers.. Warne, KP, Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar etc.. Yes, they have had their skirmishes with management and other off-field events etc. but by and large they were indeed regarded highly by the cricketing fraternity and they left a mark on the game of cricket..

    Are there any players that you think were nipped in the bud because the management was not mature or competent enough to understand these geniuses and get the best out of them.. Consequently, cricket lost them and they were not able to make a reach the heights for which they were destined for... Somehow, Vinod Kambli comes to mind...Your comments please... Cheers VS Joshi

  • alwaysurkarthik on August 16, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    Truly, The joy of watching Pietersen perform outclasses all his other shortcomings. He might be aggressive and egoistic. But like Harsha says there is way to manage team. Team India under Greg Chappel is a great example. Indian cricketers are naturally dominant and egoistic, given the attention they get. Chappel wanted discipline in his own ways, and couldnt succeed. But in Gary they got someone who is Ok with Ego`s as long as team performs. He taught them unity through wins. KP is exactly doing the same. He is winning friends through performance. Wish this happens throughout. Coz, when KP plays, the world just cant stop appreciating the genius. We need him for the sport!

  • slowleftarmer on August 16, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Mmm, yyes, but whilst giving these 'geniuses' some freedom from the usual rules and constraints that are imposed on the rest of the team, there will be a negative impact on the others, who might then feel that they are the 'also-ran' warm-up acts for the great man. Not good for morale. Ultimately, cricket is a team sport and anyone who cannot be a full member of that team is no use. If on the other hand, those talents can be channeled to help others whilst maintaining his place in the set-up on equal terms then fine. This series has not been his best, but that may be in part due to rsidual injury.

  • jmcilhinney on August 16, 2013, 6:05 GMT

    I look at this issue in a similar way to that of parents dealing with children with differing personalities. Yes, you need to allow each individual some leeway to express their own individuality but you can't effectively have two sets of rules because you then create resentment in those who are prepared to toe the line and, while you may get the best out of the more expressive type, you hold back the rest. Letting someone get away with something bad because they do or might do something good is not fair on those don't do the bad and letting people get away with things just because it's too much trouble to stop them is even worse.

  • landl47 on August 16, 2013, 5:53 GMT

    The article doesn't mention the issue England had with Pietersen- that he wanted to pick and choose which games he played in. I'm not sure how much management experience you have, Harsha, but I have over 30 years and I can tell you that if you allow anyone to dictate to management what they will and will not do, your workforce will be in an uproar immediately. So it proved when Pietersen made his demands.

    Sure, he can be allowed to prepare in his own way and play in his own way; that will see him at his best. Once you allow him to play only when he feels like it, he might be happy but 10 other team members will be breaking the doors down asking what's going on.

    I'm not aware that KP has ever been asked to change the way he plays. He has been told that if he won't play in games that he's picked for, he won't play at all. No management worth the name could take any other course of action.

  • 2MikeGattings on August 16, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    Which two centuries were those?

  • on August 16, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    Great analysis and spot on about the big man. Shows how rigid the ECB can get when trying to accomodate cricketers as good as KP! But truly they will rue the day he retires from international cricket for England when he has already become the highest run getter for all formats in English cricket.

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:40 GMT

    Good Article as always by Harsha Bhogle

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    Nice article. But there is a terrible mistake in the last paragraph. Kevin Pietersen has scored only one century in this series, not two. And it was in the drawn Old Trafford Test. So KP's century has not helped in winning any Test match, he has not scored a century in any of the three Tests that England have won in the Ashes 2013.

  • Rahulbose on August 16, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    Interesting article but with the wrong subject. KP is in no way as exceptional a player as Warne or Tendulkar. Even in the Eng team Ian bell and Cook are better test batsmen than him, his average is still below 50. His fight with ECB was not about handling or management it was about money plain and simple, same goes for why he likes IPL.

  • tpjpower on August 16, 2013, 4:22 GMT

    "In the Ashes he has looked happier, and his two centuries have contributed greatly to a series win."

    Predicting a second century for KP at the Oval, Harsha?

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    We had our own Salim Durrani that not even Tiger Pataudi was able to extract the best from the genius !

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Excellent article.I wonder is Tendulkar different from all these superachievers?Never heard about off field problems of sachin.Is he from another WORLD?

  • McGorium on August 16, 2013, 3:59 GMT

    Trust Harsha to plug the IPL in every other article. More to the point of this whole genius mentality being given leeway, there may be something to it, but only within limits. Shoaib Akhtar was arguably a genius and a match winner, but could hardly be called a positive influence on his team. His shenanigans, coupled with his chronic injuries meant that he was of infrequent use to his side. As Wasim once said of him, he may be remembered as the fastest, but not as the best. A team has to give some leeway to an individual to express his individuality, sure. But not to make demigods out of them. KP's outburst against his coach was unforgivable and he rightly lost his captaincy as a consequence. Other "geniuses" include Jesse Ryder, Andrew Symmonds, Afridi. Lesser players would be permanently dropped for much less. It's only the glimmer of hope of a match-winning performace that keep the selectors interested. Less talented players would get dropped for much less.

  • kingkarthik on August 16, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    The tenth paragraph on what the Best Managers would advise in handling Maverick players is an absolute gem. This immediately translates not only to cricket, but to all walks of life. But the sad thing is that people who conform to conformity, are always sharpening their knives, barbs and words and wait for the maverick to slip- up so that they can attack without mercy. That in itself brings a greater meaning to what Pietersen said "It is hard being me". Hats off to an once in a generation player. He should have played for India and he would have found out what fanfare is all about. Even lesser mortals like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambir are celebrated in India. Imagine what the brand KP could have been.... perhaps only second to the brands Sachin and Dhoni and in par with Virat Kohli.

  • on August 16, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    When did he hit two centuries in this Ashes? Just one so far!

  • Sarthik on August 16, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    I respectfully diasgree.. match winner and conformist are qualities that co-exist in quite a few players. Sachin, Dravid, Murali, Kumble, Lara, Gilly, Haydos, Amla to name a few....

  • sandy_bangalore on August 16, 2013, 3:20 GMT

    KP is without doubt the best batsman playing the game today. ANd his hundred on a tough pitch against Steyn,philander and Morkel was among the greatest ever. As was his innings in Mumbai! Interesting to know how many of our Indian flat pitch kings, who have Pietersens strut but not his ability, have done so when the conditions and the bowling are challenging.Certainly not talking about rajkot or indore or gwalior or even adelaide.

  • sandy_bangalore on August 16, 2013, 3:20 GMT

    KP is without doubt the best batsman playing the game today. ANd his hundred on a tough pitch against Steyn,philander and Morkel was among the greatest ever. As was his innings in Mumbai! Interesting to know how many of our Indian flat pitch kings, who have Pietersens strut but not his ability, have done so when the conditions and the bowling are challenging.Certainly not talking about rajkot or indore or gwalior or even adelaide.

  • Sarthik on August 16, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    I respectfully diasgree.. match winner and conformist are qualities that co-exist in quite a few players. Sachin, Dravid, Murali, Kumble, Lara, Gilly, Haydos, Amla to name a few....

  • on August 16, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    When did he hit two centuries in this Ashes? Just one so far!

  • kingkarthik on August 16, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    The tenth paragraph on what the Best Managers would advise in handling Maverick players is an absolute gem. This immediately translates not only to cricket, but to all walks of life. But the sad thing is that people who conform to conformity, are always sharpening their knives, barbs and words and wait for the maverick to slip- up so that they can attack without mercy. That in itself brings a greater meaning to what Pietersen said "It is hard being me". Hats off to an once in a generation player. He should have played for India and he would have found out what fanfare is all about. Even lesser mortals like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambir are celebrated in India. Imagine what the brand KP could have been.... perhaps only second to the brands Sachin and Dhoni and in par with Virat Kohli.

  • McGorium on August 16, 2013, 3:59 GMT

    Trust Harsha to plug the IPL in every other article. More to the point of this whole genius mentality being given leeway, there may be something to it, but only within limits. Shoaib Akhtar was arguably a genius and a match winner, but could hardly be called a positive influence on his team. His shenanigans, coupled with his chronic injuries meant that he was of infrequent use to his side. As Wasim once said of him, he may be remembered as the fastest, but not as the best. A team has to give some leeway to an individual to express his individuality, sure. But not to make demigods out of them. KP's outburst against his coach was unforgivable and he rightly lost his captaincy as a consequence. Other "geniuses" include Jesse Ryder, Andrew Symmonds, Afridi. Lesser players would be permanently dropped for much less. It's only the glimmer of hope of a match-winning performace that keep the selectors interested. Less talented players would get dropped for much less.

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Excellent article.I wonder is Tendulkar different from all these superachievers?Never heard about off field problems of sachin.Is he from another WORLD?

  • on August 16, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    We had our own Salim Durrani that not even Tiger Pataudi was able to extract the best from the genius !

  • tpjpower on August 16, 2013, 4:22 GMT

    "In the Ashes he has looked happier, and his two centuries have contributed greatly to a series win."

    Predicting a second century for KP at the Oval, Harsha?

  • Rahulbose on August 16, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    Interesting article but with the wrong subject. KP is in no way as exceptional a player as Warne or Tendulkar. Even in the Eng team Ian bell and Cook are better test batsmen than him, his average is still below 50. His fight with ECB was not about handling or management it was about money plain and simple, same goes for why he likes IPL.