May 20, 2014

How much talent does the difficult player need?

Exceptionally gifted but unreliable players are often given lots of rope by management, but far too many seem to believe themselves to be deserving of that leeway
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It's been a mixed week for sportsmen out of love with the authorities. Michael Carberry, overlooked after the Ashes tour, publicly stated his frustrations about a lack of communication from the selectors. Many assumed that Carberry, aged 33, had signed his own death warrant and would never play for England again. But the selectors have made a shrewd decision in recalling him. He is a decent, understated man; the England management now looks magnanimous in overlooking a few surprising quotes in a newspaper.

No such luck for Samir Nasri, the wonderfully gifted but moody French footballer. He has been left out of France's World Cup squad. France's coach, Didier Deschamps, explained his decision with bracing honesty: "He's a regular starter at Manchester City. That's not the case today with the France team. And he also said he's not happy when he's a substitute. I can tell you that you can feel it in the squad." Deschamps went further, anticipating his critics by conceding that Nasri was more talented than some players he had selected: "It's not necessarily the 23 best French players, but it's the best squad in my eyes to go as far as possible in this competition."

Talent v unity: an old story.

Rugby union, though, has also brought two mavericks back into the fold. Gavin Henson, Wales' troubled but mercurial playmaker, looks set to return to the red jersey. And England's Danny Cipriani, another flair player who has never found a happy home wearing national colours, has been thrown a lifeline. A last chance that both Henson and Cipriani cannot afford to miss? I bet they have heard that before. And then been handed just one final, last chance. That's often the way with rare talent: different rules apply.

As always, these debates have generally descended into an argument about abstract principles. Pundits have rushed to say that French football has a problem with finding a home for left-field characters. Other have bridled at Deschamps' logic: who should be happy being put on the bench anyway? It is the job of managers, we are often told, to finesse and handle talented but unconventional personalities. Indeed, with a moment's reflection, anyone can produce a list of world-beating players who didn't conform to a coach's template for a model professional - from Diego Maradona to Andrew Flintoff.

Such a list, sadly, proves absolutely nothing. Because it is just as easy to find examples of teams that began a winning streak by leaving out a talented but unreliable star player. The French team that won the World Cup in 1998 left out both David Ginola and Eric Cantona, just as the current side have now omitted Nasri.

In the popular imagination, the argument about dropping and recalling star players revolves around the juicy, gossipy questions: how difficult are they, how does their awkwardness manifest itself, has anyone tried to talk them round? This is naturally intriguing stuff. But the other half of the question - the crucial half - is too often ignored. Quite simply, how much better are they than the next guy?

When mavericks slide from outright brilliance to mere high competence they find patience runs out alarmingly quickly. There is a lot of high competence around. It is replaceable. Not so genuine brilliance

If you are a lot better, it is amazing how forgiving sports teams can be. Luis Suarez was banned for eight games for racially abusing Patrice Evra. He then served another ten-match ban for biting a Chelsea player. Obviously Liverpool sacked him instantly on the grounds that he was bringing the club into disrepute and becoming a distraction from the task of winning football matches? No, they didn't do anything of the kind. They calculated that Suarez was the best chance, their only chance, of mounting a challenge for trophies. If Suarez had been Liverpool's sixth- or seventh-best player, rather than their star man, he would have been kicked out years ago.

In other words, the best protection from being dropped for being "difficult" is to be brilliant. Even as a young man, England midfielder Paul Gascoigne was a heavy drinker and an unreliable man. But he was a sensational footballer. Coaches put up with him because they calculated it was in their own and the team's rational self-interest. By the latter stages of his career, Gascoigne was still a heavy drinker and an unreliable man, but he was now only occasionally an excellent footballer. Glenn Hoddle felt Gascoigne was too unfit to play at the 1998 World Cup. The glass was half-empty.

When mavericks slide from outright brilliance to mere high competence they find patience runs out alarmingly quickly. There is a lot of high competence around. It is replaceable. Not so genuine brilliance. That is why Shane Warne was able to criticise Australia coach John Buchanan and (nearly) always stay in the team. Any rational man who asked himself the question: "Are Australia a better team with Warne in it?" came to the unavoidable conclusion: "Yes, definitely."

Here's the central point. At this exalted level of elite sport, a great number of players have an epic degree of self-belief. Being convinced of their own greatness is an aspect of their magic. They back themselves to shape the match, to determine its destiny - especially the big matches. Instead of seeing themselves as just one of a number of exceptionally talented players, in their own minds they are men apart, special cases.

They aren't always right, though. So the question becomes: how good, how difficult? They are two aspects of the same equation, a calculation that is being made every day by coaches all over the world - on the school pitch, in the reserves squad, all the way to the World Cup final.

A player, too, must make his own calculation. Would pretending to be someone else - a more compliant, easy-going man - centrally detract from my performances? Must I play on my own terms, behaving as I like? But this question must coexist with another, less comfortable one: am I good enough to get away with it?

Not many. Fewer, certainly, than the number who think they can.

Ed Smith's latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. @edsmithwriter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • McGorium on May 22, 2014, 0:18 GMT

    @jackiethepen: Tendulkar may not have been difficult in the sense of a prima-donna(a la Shoaib, KP, Ryder,a young Ponting, etc) but he was extremely inflexible. He consistently refused to bat at #4 in ODI's when the team need him to bolster the middle-order. When forced to do so, I recall him complaining to the media that #1 was the spot he made the most runs, and that's where he belonged. In tests, it was the opposite: he refused to open the batting, claiming the #4 spot all to himself. There is no other player in the Indian side who's clung on to a position regardless of personal form or team needs. And then, there's that infamous (IMHO correct) Dravid declaration in Multan that left him stranded on 194*. He made no attempt to score fast to get to 200. India won the match with Sehwag making 300+. SRT complains to the media that he was "disappointed" not to get 200. Anyone else would be in hot water for such a statement, but not him. Bad form might get lesser mortals dropped. Not Him.

  • jackiethepen on May 21, 2014, 14:55 GMT

    It's a romantic idea but not necessary right. Difficult and talent don't necessarily go hand in hand. Shakespeare famously was described as the 'sweet swan of avon' by fellow poet Ben Jonson. Tendulkhar wasn't difficult. Bell is talented but reckoned to be one of the nicest guys in cricket. Mozart was said to be giggly and easy going. Beethoven on the other hand was famously difficult. Shelley was thought to be too nice by his friends, including bad boy Byron. Perhaps each individual has to be judged on their merits. If they cross the line they need to be either coaxed back or sacked depending on whether to coach is difficult/nice.

  • on May 21, 2014, 13:27 GMT

    why is everyone assuming the article is all about KP? or to quote Ballotelli, "why always him?"

  • dunger.bob on May 21, 2014, 8:59 GMT

    I think it's becoming harder and harder to be an old school ratbag these days. In the 60's and 70's there were many more 'characters' around mainly because there was much less media and it wasn't as intrusive as it is now. These days all it takes is a mobile phone, the wrong place, the wrong time, and wham. The entire world might know about your little 'indiscretion' in 5 minutes flat. .. a careless word or deed in an unguarded moment goes viral. How many have we seen that lately.

    I think Dave Warner has already proven to be as difficult as Warne. Warne never tried to punch anyone as far as I know, so maybe there's a case for saying Warner's even worse. It's going to interesting to see how CA manage him.

    As for KP, I think Ed's right on the money again. Effort V Reward got just too much to bear it seems. Anyway, I predict he will play for England again. Maybe not in Tests, more likely next years 50 over WC.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on May 21, 2014, 4:50 GMT

    Talent,and those that border on the extreme special kind that shows greatness is a v irreplaceable commodity in this game. Or for that matter any sport,not just cricket. Simply put it can't be done away with entirely even if such players come with a 'price' that is mentioned here. Warne's is classic eg.Coming to K Peterson ,think in his case the whole talent thing is bit of a myth,and blown up somewhat.I mean a batsman in no clue whatsoever against left arm spin-even those that don't turn,or even avg. 1s - cant be that. Eng mgmt. certainly knew something. The IPL now just supports the fact.

  • __PK on May 20, 2014, 22:39 GMT

    Not a bad article, but I think it has a fundamental misinterpretation as its central point. The player's impact on the team has less to do with their individual brilliance and more to do with how they lead and influence the players around them. This is why Warne was given a lot of leeway and KP little. You can behave as badly as you like, as long as it doesn't isolate you from your team-mates. Cricket isn't obviously a team sport on the field, but it requires a lot of time spent off-field with your team-mates and you can't underestimate the importance of team spirit.

  • on May 20, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    Excellent article. The point that hits me the most is the role of coaches/manager in a team sport. Cricket for example has a coaching staff with a head coach. Often ex cricketers have pointed out that there is not a lot of technical skill that can be taught at the highest level. Thus effectively he has a major managerial role and one very important aspect of it is to make a egotistical player understand the value of playing for the team. So Didier Deschamps leaving out Nasri for reasons other than form is actually his failure as a manager. Gary Kirstens biggest contribution to Indian cricket was that he motivated Shewag to play for the team and not for himself, which benefitted him( he had his best phase during his tenure) and Indian cricket team.

  • on May 20, 2014, 16:18 GMT

    Cantona retired in 97, so France didn't leave him out as he wasn't available to leave out in the first place. His international career ended largely as a result of his 8 month suspension in 95.

  • Badgerhair on May 20, 2014, 16:12 GMT

    There's clearly no-one in the England side now who could do exactly what KP at his brilliant best can do - though Morgan and Buttler can do very similar things in limited-over cricket. But, as followers of the Delhi Daredevils will know, KP doesn't perform at his brilliant best that often these days - even with the captaincy and a coach he apparently thinks the world of.

    For all those who think that the England management should have bent over backwards to keep him in the fold, the question is really whether they would back KP to be the top performer in the England side over a period of time. That might well have been the case 3-4 years ago, but neither Cook nor Bell are incapable, and both have done more to win Tests over the last couple of years than KP did. And if he isn't delivering more than Bell or Cook, why should he be given more latitude than them?

  • on May 20, 2014, 14:38 GMT

    Sorry football and rugby are not the same type of games as cricket. Individual performances define a cricket side, rugby is the ultimate team game where you could literally owe you life to the man next to you! Poor Article in my opinion!

  • McGorium on May 22, 2014, 0:18 GMT

    @jackiethepen: Tendulkar may not have been difficult in the sense of a prima-donna(a la Shoaib, KP, Ryder,a young Ponting, etc) but he was extremely inflexible. He consistently refused to bat at #4 in ODI's when the team need him to bolster the middle-order. When forced to do so, I recall him complaining to the media that #1 was the spot he made the most runs, and that's where he belonged. In tests, it was the opposite: he refused to open the batting, claiming the #4 spot all to himself. There is no other player in the Indian side who's clung on to a position regardless of personal form or team needs. And then, there's that infamous (IMHO correct) Dravid declaration in Multan that left him stranded on 194*. He made no attempt to score fast to get to 200. India won the match with Sehwag making 300+. SRT complains to the media that he was "disappointed" not to get 200. Anyone else would be in hot water for such a statement, but not him. Bad form might get lesser mortals dropped. Not Him.

  • jackiethepen on May 21, 2014, 14:55 GMT

    It's a romantic idea but not necessary right. Difficult and talent don't necessarily go hand in hand. Shakespeare famously was described as the 'sweet swan of avon' by fellow poet Ben Jonson. Tendulkhar wasn't difficult. Bell is talented but reckoned to be one of the nicest guys in cricket. Mozart was said to be giggly and easy going. Beethoven on the other hand was famously difficult. Shelley was thought to be too nice by his friends, including bad boy Byron. Perhaps each individual has to be judged on their merits. If they cross the line they need to be either coaxed back or sacked depending on whether to coach is difficult/nice.

  • on May 21, 2014, 13:27 GMT

    why is everyone assuming the article is all about KP? or to quote Ballotelli, "why always him?"

  • dunger.bob on May 21, 2014, 8:59 GMT

    I think it's becoming harder and harder to be an old school ratbag these days. In the 60's and 70's there were many more 'characters' around mainly because there was much less media and it wasn't as intrusive as it is now. These days all it takes is a mobile phone, the wrong place, the wrong time, and wham. The entire world might know about your little 'indiscretion' in 5 minutes flat. .. a careless word or deed in an unguarded moment goes viral. How many have we seen that lately.

    I think Dave Warner has already proven to be as difficult as Warne. Warne never tried to punch anyone as far as I know, so maybe there's a case for saying Warner's even worse. It's going to interesting to see how CA manage him.

    As for KP, I think Ed's right on the money again. Effort V Reward got just too much to bear it seems. Anyway, I predict he will play for England again. Maybe not in Tests, more likely next years 50 over WC.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on May 21, 2014, 4:50 GMT

    Talent,and those that border on the extreme special kind that shows greatness is a v irreplaceable commodity in this game. Or for that matter any sport,not just cricket. Simply put it can't be done away with entirely even if such players come with a 'price' that is mentioned here. Warne's is classic eg.Coming to K Peterson ,think in his case the whole talent thing is bit of a myth,and blown up somewhat.I mean a batsman in no clue whatsoever against left arm spin-even those that don't turn,or even avg. 1s - cant be that. Eng mgmt. certainly knew something. The IPL now just supports the fact.

  • __PK on May 20, 2014, 22:39 GMT

    Not a bad article, but I think it has a fundamental misinterpretation as its central point. The player's impact on the team has less to do with their individual brilliance and more to do with how they lead and influence the players around them. This is why Warne was given a lot of leeway and KP little. You can behave as badly as you like, as long as it doesn't isolate you from your team-mates. Cricket isn't obviously a team sport on the field, but it requires a lot of time spent off-field with your team-mates and you can't underestimate the importance of team spirit.

  • on May 20, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    Excellent article. The point that hits me the most is the role of coaches/manager in a team sport. Cricket for example has a coaching staff with a head coach. Often ex cricketers have pointed out that there is not a lot of technical skill that can be taught at the highest level. Thus effectively he has a major managerial role and one very important aspect of it is to make a egotistical player understand the value of playing for the team. So Didier Deschamps leaving out Nasri for reasons other than form is actually his failure as a manager. Gary Kirstens biggest contribution to Indian cricket was that he motivated Shewag to play for the team and not for himself, which benefitted him( he had his best phase during his tenure) and Indian cricket team.

  • on May 20, 2014, 16:18 GMT

    Cantona retired in 97, so France didn't leave him out as he wasn't available to leave out in the first place. His international career ended largely as a result of his 8 month suspension in 95.

  • Badgerhair on May 20, 2014, 16:12 GMT

    There's clearly no-one in the England side now who could do exactly what KP at his brilliant best can do - though Morgan and Buttler can do very similar things in limited-over cricket. But, as followers of the Delhi Daredevils will know, KP doesn't perform at his brilliant best that often these days - even with the captaincy and a coach he apparently thinks the world of.

    For all those who think that the England management should have bent over backwards to keep him in the fold, the question is really whether they would back KP to be the top performer in the England side over a period of time. That might well have been the case 3-4 years ago, but neither Cook nor Bell are incapable, and both have done more to win Tests over the last couple of years than KP did. And if he isn't delivering more than Bell or Cook, why should he be given more latitude than them?

  • on May 20, 2014, 14:38 GMT

    Sorry football and rugby are not the same type of games as cricket. Individual performances define a cricket side, rugby is the ultimate team game where you could literally owe you life to the man next to you! Poor Article in my opinion!

  • on May 20, 2014, 12:58 GMT

    Well Ed Smith has hit the nail on the head. The management of "difficult players" is a simple cost benefit analysis of whether or not the player in question contributes more to the team than they cost. It is about the performance of the team as a unit not the players as individuals. There is no point is pandering to your star player if their behaviour causes the rest of the team to perform like drains. Cricket also has the unique problem of the team having with live with each other for months on end. With so much time spent together difficult and anti social personalities can become very draining on a team. Difficult players can be managed but only if they agree not to be disruptive. Geoff Boycott was unpopular with his team mates and considered very selfish but he could sit in the corner of a dressing room and leave the rest of the team alone. England tried to do the same with Pietersen but he couldn't help but cause trouble with the coach, captain and junior players.

  • Boycott_Boycott on May 20, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    Looks to me that managers are being forced to decide who should be in a team based on what they say outside or do outside the pitch. It is a dliemma and also goes to prove whether the Managers are capabale enough to deal with troublesome/impetuous players or take the safe approach and protect themselves. Oneside of the coin says be bold and embrace them. If an amount of groundwork is done then these players can be managed. However the managers have become mediadriven and forced to take safe approaches. Their inability to manage translates in underperformance if the team overall consists of mediocrity. The managers need to do more to blend the superstars into the team. They should kick the star players where it hurts right in front of the tream and prove who is boos if it comes to it. However most of the current managers do not. Also events tell upon them. So who is more important to a team super star or manager. Manager of course...

  • dogcatcher on May 20, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    Ed, I good article although cricket is a slightly different sport to other team sports in that there are overriding elements of individualism that in reality don't hinge on other players. Other than running between wickets does a batsmen really need the other batsmen or for that matter the other 9 people in the hut. The contest is one between ball and bat, therefore cricket will always give grater sway to mavericks who have talent as you can compare their use to the team with cast iron facts and statistics which can be compared with other players. Therefore a batsmen who averages higher than another should in theory be picked in the side unless the difference is negligible and the other player makes up by being a excellent fielder eg J Rhodes or adds to team cohesion. The same applies to bowlers. Some on here will use your argument about Pieterson however to drop the top averaging batsmen and best batsmen in the recent series and arguably last 5 years is a joke.

  • McWheels on May 20, 2014, 11:42 GMT

    Clearly been stewing for a little while in Ed's head this one, and none the worse for it. The final, uncomfortable question though, requires a degree of introspection absent in most people, never mind the high egos. The coach can even explain it to the self-appointed genius, but it will fall on stony ground. KP might even have higher than average competences (although check out his record for DD this IPL), but it's not like he did a Michael Vaughan in Australia is it?

  • LeeJA on May 20, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    The KP of a few years ago was an exceptional player and his character had to be accommodated for the good of English cricket

    The KP of now is not that and so he can not be

    It's as simple as that

    While it is clear a lot of supporters of other international team still rate him - they haven't been let down by him as often as us English have and do not appreciate the reality.

    It isn't like he has performed well in one of the formats that will justify his inclusion of that format - over the last 12 months he hasn't.

    Onwards and upwards and bring on the youth.

  • yoohoo on May 20, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    One example of reasonably good, but not worth the trouble to deal with - Gautam Gambhir.

    An example of someone who should have been placated, considering the batting brilliance - Kevin Pietersen.

    An example of someone who was brilliant, and so was placated initially, but later became just 'good and competent' and so was dumped - Sreesanth, Kambli.

  • on May 20, 2014, 10:30 GMT

    KP is more significant to this topic and yet has never been mentioned. For a Nasri, there is a Benzema. Is there anybody present among the active English batsmen who can even dream to fill KP's shoes? The loss to Netherlands in the T-20 WC should have driven home the truth.

  • Nutcutlet on May 20, 2014, 9:53 GMT

    I wonder whether anyone can pretend 'to be someone else' for very long. Sportsmen are performers of course, but that doesn't make them consummate actors - especially the type that can change their own natures. It is bound to be the case that the genuine spiky personality that's been repressed for the sake of compliance (and thus making him more selectable) will break through, probably at a moment when the team most requires the reformed version. If the pretence is to be successful, it's surely more likely to be seen on a football pitch when the game will last little more than 90 minutes than on the cricket field where the game takes much more time, even in its shortest version. And this is one reason that makes cricket a more revealing game. Cricketers have to be genuinely reformed to convince selectors and onlookers that the conversion is complete -- which is why it almost always isn't. Warne is still the larrikin he always was.

  • GeeD on May 20, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    Yes, an excellent article but I also found it interesting that Ed had chosen to omit KP as an example. Ideally there has to be a balance between clever man-management (particularly when dealing with exceptional talent coupled with difficult character) and keeping the rest of the team intact. It would seem to me that it is hugely important to have a coach who can "handle" these difficult characters in such a way that they don't disrupt the rest of the team. Good coaches have managed to achieve this in the past, hopefully present incumbents can achieve the same? If they can't, what happens to the exceptional talent?

  • on May 20, 2014, 9:38 GMT

    This is a good topic to discuss, but most of the article is about Football. Cricinfo is a cricketing site and we expect to see articles about Cricket. There's nothing wrong in talking about other sports but the main focus should be on Cricket.

  • on May 20, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    Let's think of the KP situation in light of this article.

    Has KP been brilliant? Yes. Was he still brilliant in his last 12 months as a Test cricketer or was he only showing flashes of brilliance? Sadly, it was the latter. Is England better without him? Remains to be seen. Is he replaceable? Well, the emergence of some new, young players would indicate he is. In the end, how much brilliance was he bringing to the side versus how much awkwardness and rancour he was causing? Probably the scales were tipping to the latter.

  • steve48 on May 20, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    Always an intelligent read, Ed. In the end, selection of any player is about utility; does their inclusion give us a better chance of winning compared to the next best alternative? Within this comes the player 's effect on team morale and discipline, but always with a view to 'does he make us a better team?' Selectors who stray from this or bias the 'opportunity cost' ratio for personal reasons are doing their team a disservice. I would like to say, however, that a selector has the most trouble when media and public perception herald a maverick talent as a genius, and therefore an obvious on field benefit to a team, when he actually isn't that beneficial in reality and results. For example, Cipriani can't tackle, Ginola wouldn't track back, so for every score they create, how many do they concede? If these types of players are also difficult personalities, they are only difficult to discard because of the public desiring entertainment as well as results!

  • LeeJA on May 20, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    A very good article.

    Generally when a player is good enough but is becoming slightly problematic it is usually a starting point for them to be 'rested' for long periods (while others emerge) or have them focus on the limited overs form of the game with there being a host of excuses why. These are excuses to try to play to their ego but the net effect is the same for the test team - a better environment.

    Anyone who doesn't think that what goes on in the dressing room doesn't affect performance needs their head testing. It is the same in all sports and any walk of life... you have to be exceptional to be included when there are big question marks about your character - once you stop being exceptional, the process begins to start getting you away from the environment.

    Hopefully we see these benefits reaped by the England team without the 'unexceptional for the last 2 years'' KP.

  • Vakbar on May 20, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    This article is literally amazing - principally for the fact that it manages to discuss difficult players and not even mention KP once. Ed has clearly got his shrewdest thinking cap on...don't even mention KP but hope that the England selectors ask the key question "Are England a better team with KP in it?"

    and the answer is....

  • on May 20, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    It is not just about the talent, it is about their demeanour and ability to win and play at 100% no matter the situation. We can see that Suarez never gives less than 100% on the field as he is constantly pressing, trying to reclaim lost balls, springing up to run into channels. He may have done stupid things in his past, but he has never stopped trying. Mesut Ozil has more of a chance of being dropped than Suarez for this reason ( I know that Ozil has done nothing silly, he just does not always come across as putting in the type of effort Suarez does. The same is for Warne. Despite his criticisms he never stopped competing - look at the 2005 Ashes with his 40 wickets. Also, particularly in football, the individual matters much less as there are 10 other players. With the right tactics etc. the manager can account for a star player in some cases. In cricket the team aspect of the sport is overlooked for individuals and so a talented player gets a lot more leeway.

  • sanjeevniles on May 20, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    Another irrelevant comparison between Cricket and Football. Individual impact is much higher in cricket. Cricket is fundamentally a game where a batsman faces off against a bowler. Football and Rugby is where a group of players pass a ball among each other to score a goal. Comparison of individual impact between the two sports is not possible.

  • GRHinPorts on May 20, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    Always a pleasure to read Ed. Another great article.

  • on May 20, 2014, 5:07 GMT

    A very good read and accurate analogy with football. The bottomline still remain the same that if you are too good then others have to give you more space for the good of the team.

  • on May 20, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    I sincerely hope that players like Mario Balotelli read this...

  • YorkshirePudding on May 20, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    A very good article with some deep thought provoking arguments. I should also be pointed out that this type of thing occurs outside of sport in the world of business. Companies will often look for employees that 'fit' the company on a social level rather than them being the most technically gifted.

    In regards to Suarez, you could also argue that after those incidents his market value took a huge dip and few teams would pay for his services so Liverpool have persevered until the events were forgotten and they could sell him to another club, however he seems to have settled down.

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  • YorkshirePudding on May 20, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    A very good article with some deep thought provoking arguments. I should also be pointed out that this type of thing occurs outside of sport in the world of business. Companies will often look for employees that 'fit' the company on a social level rather than them being the most technically gifted.

    In regards to Suarez, you could also argue that after those incidents his market value took a huge dip and few teams would pay for his services so Liverpool have persevered until the events were forgotten and they could sell him to another club, however he seems to have settled down.

  • on May 20, 2014, 4:36 GMT

    I sincerely hope that players like Mario Balotelli read this...

  • on May 20, 2014, 5:07 GMT

    A very good read and accurate analogy with football. The bottomline still remain the same that if you are too good then others have to give you more space for the good of the team.

  • GRHinPorts on May 20, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    Always a pleasure to read Ed. Another great article.

  • sanjeevniles on May 20, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    Another irrelevant comparison between Cricket and Football. Individual impact is much higher in cricket. Cricket is fundamentally a game where a batsman faces off against a bowler. Football and Rugby is where a group of players pass a ball among each other to score a goal. Comparison of individual impact between the two sports is not possible.

  • on May 20, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    It is not just about the talent, it is about their demeanour and ability to win and play at 100% no matter the situation. We can see that Suarez never gives less than 100% on the field as he is constantly pressing, trying to reclaim lost balls, springing up to run into channels. He may have done stupid things in his past, but he has never stopped trying. Mesut Ozil has more of a chance of being dropped than Suarez for this reason ( I know that Ozil has done nothing silly, he just does not always come across as putting in the type of effort Suarez does. The same is for Warne. Despite his criticisms he never stopped competing - look at the 2005 Ashes with his 40 wickets. Also, particularly in football, the individual matters much less as there are 10 other players. With the right tactics etc. the manager can account for a star player in some cases. In cricket the team aspect of the sport is overlooked for individuals and so a talented player gets a lot more leeway.

  • Vakbar on May 20, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    This article is literally amazing - principally for the fact that it manages to discuss difficult players and not even mention KP once. Ed has clearly got his shrewdest thinking cap on...don't even mention KP but hope that the England selectors ask the key question "Are England a better team with KP in it?"

    and the answer is....

  • LeeJA on May 20, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    A very good article.

    Generally when a player is good enough but is becoming slightly problematic it is usually a starting point for them to be 'rested' for long periods (while others emerge) or have them focus on the limited overs form of the game with there being a host of excuses why. These are excuses to try to play to their ego but the net effect is the same for the test team - a better environment.

    Anyone who doesn't think that what goes on in the dressing room doesn't affect performance needs their head testing. It is the same in all sports and any walk of life... you have to be exceptional to be included when there are big question marks about your character - once you stop being exceptional, the process begins to start getting you away from the environment.

    Hopefully we see these benefits reaped by the England team without the 'unexceptional for the last 2 years'' KP.

  • steve48 on May 20, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    Always an intelligent read, Ed. In the end, selection of any player is about utility; does their inclusion give us a better chance of winning compared to the next best alternative? Within this comes the player 's effect on team morale and discipline, but always with a view to 'does he make us a better team?' Selectors who stray from this or bias the 'opportunity cost' ratio for personal reasons are doing their team a disservice. I would like to say, however, that a selector has the most trouble when media and public perception herald a maverick talent as a genius, and therefore an obvious on field benefit to a team, when he actually isn't that beneficial in reality and results. For example, Cipriani can't tackle, Ginola wouldn't track back, so for every score they create, how many do they concede? If these types of players are also difficult personalities, they are only difficult to discard because of the public desiring entertainment as well as results!

  • on May 20, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    Let's think of the KP situation in light of this article.

    Has KP been brilliant? Yes. Was he still brilliant in his last 12 months as a Test cricketer or was he only showing flashes of brilliance? Sadly, it was the latter. Is England better without him? Remains to be seen. Is he replaceable? Well, the emergence of some new, young players would indicate he is. In the end, how much brilliance was he bringing to the side versus how much awkwardness and rancour he was causing? Probably the scales were tipping to the latter.