February 9, 2014

Was Pietersen outspoken or insubordinate?

Did England sack him because he thought differently from his captain and coach or because he was a disruptive force in the dressing room?

Was Kevin Pietersen eventually sacked because he disagreed with aspects of Alastair Cook's captaincy? Any English player who wasn't exasperated by some of Cook's captaincy in Australia deserves to be demoted.

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 modern cricket teams are run?

What I do know is that when selecting a cricket team, it's performing not conforming that counts. A selector only has to ask himself if a player can get him a hundred or take five wickets.

There's no doubt Pietersen is still capable of scoring Test centuries, so he must have been sacked for reasons other than cricket ability. That's another thing about selection: likes and dislikes 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 it. 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. Occasionally a captain has to live with the consequences of individuality, whether it be on the field or off it.

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 is 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 about the operating style of coach Andy Flower. If so, it wouldn't be the first time Pietersen had expressed a strong opinion about a coach. He was sacked as captain for speaking out against Peter Moores when he had the England job.

Doesn't Pietersen speaking out show he cares?

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 have a say in who was coach?

Nowadays 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 greater the chance of likes and dislikes playing a part in the selection process.

The captain - if he knows what's good for him - has a vested interest in having the best players in the team, as all the wins and losses go against his name.

The England hierarchy makes 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, picking 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.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • subhasish on February 12, 2014, 3:39 GMT

    i do not think england can beat aus in 2015 ashes with kp.swan.trot out new player need time i do not think england can build a team in 1.5 years young players need time to sattel eng need to think about build a team for future not for the ashes in 2015 and also they need bud young batsmen root is a gud batsmen but eng need more young batsmen .

  • Kalyan on February 10, 2014, 15:35 GMT

    india had kapil and gavaskar who had their own issues with each other but still played togethr for india and achieved their own deserved places in cricketing history. pak had imran and miandad who never really got along but still won pak the world cup and much more. buchanan was highly rated as coach not just because he won matches but because he man-manages such diverse and strong-willed prsonalities as warne, ponting, mcgrath and the waughs - and this is also why flower will be consigned to the dustbin of history as the coach who let his own insecurities with kp take over his team's interests.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2014, 14:15 GMT

    According to KP's own team mates he was so committed and behaved very well devoid any controversy in the Australian tour.As Vaughn pointed though he was a senior player, was always seen in boundary lines without any involvement in any of game plans. It is the stupid mind set of the Coach and the Captain which must be condemned for this fiasco in management.What a poor management style !!!

  • christoph on February 10, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    After flogging Australia for so long, when the English arrived in Oz, you could see something was wrong. For Trott and then Swann to jump ship shows that the team morale was wrong. As cricket is 90% a mind game, they were easy picking for an average Australian side. KP by the sounds, was part of the problem. It should be lesson for Cook and he has some pretty good kids there to fill KP's spot.

  • Ritvik on February 10, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    Gear up for a high profile T20 freelancer! Sometimes talent is a good enough reason to avoid sacking. And also for the sake of the game, its popularity and your own dodgy batting line up..its an unfortunate decision, ECB

  • Savita on February 10, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    There was never a question of capability of KP; he was fantastic. However, by his attitude, he destroyed his career. I don't blame the administration, sometimes it is not worth having a player with capabilities - for non-cricketing reasons. I feel sad for KP, but he has to blame himself.

  • Shabbir on February 10, 2014, 8:45 GMT

    Thanks Yan, for this insightful article and speaking my mind on this KP matter. I am surprised none of the Cricketing pundits actually using the fantastic example of how Shane Warne. He was a maverick, a distinctive individual, often involved in controversies, and a constant management challenge. However, none here in Australia ever thought of cutting short Warne's wonderful career because he was "kinda hard" to deal with. I am sure there were many people who did not like him personally, but still respected him for his match winning capabilities and fresh ideas. Warne and KP are very similar in their cricketing intelligence, manners on and off the field, and their ability to think outside the square. No wonder they are friends, and one being the mentor of another. ECB has no right to deprive us, the followers of the great game of Cricket, from the pleasure of watching KP in action at a packed stadium.

  • Srinivas on February 10, 2014, 6:20 GMT

    More than anything selectors need to handle ego of the players. No doubt KP is a class act, you seldom get such players who play on the minds of the bowlers. Richards,haydos,sehwag to name a few. KP is on that list. For years indian selectors handled the ego of ganguly. English selectors must put the game first and egos's later.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    Ian has made a potpourri of observations in trying to pin point Pietrsonn's ouster. The track record shows Pieterson was down right arrogant and insubordinate; where is the question of speculation. Pieterson was critical of Andrew Strauss, the erstwhile coaches and now Cook. He certainly is not a team man, though he may still wield the willow in the T20s/IPL.that is a different brand of cricket where individuals are capable of carrying the team single handedly to win; not in longer forms of cricket; where the team spirit and performance count more than the individual. All said and done, discipline is not negotiable in any sport.

  • Sreerang on February 10, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    England used Peterson and now that he is aging have discarded him. Simple as that. They took him during his best years. They took him to India when they knew they needed him even though there was the 'texting' problem. Now suddenly he is unmanageable! That is how it looks from outside.

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