Recently the English Cricket Board has faced a huge criticism for sacking their leading run scorer across all formats and their biggest match winner since Sir Ian Botham retired, Maverick Badboy – KEVIN PIETERSON.
This was a classic case study where the management decided, if a player’s personality does not correlate with the team’s, then however big the player is, he can be dropped. If this can be viewed in an alternate angle, the huge support staffs of England failed to sort of this issue and amicably solve the elephant in the room.
The fact that Kevin Pietersen had major fall outs earlier with Andrew Strauss also did not help his case. But if the history books are dusted, it can be seen in the past teams, not all members of the squad were friends. Every team had this maverick player who can win matches for the team, yet be an outcast within the team. England had its share in the form of David Gower, Ian Botham and Geoff Boycott. David Gower infamously rode a private aircraft when England were playing Australia and flew very close at just 200 feet above ground. Robin Smith and Allan lamb were batting and they knew who was in the flight and pretended to shoot the flight down. This didn’t go well with the captain Graham Gooch and their relationship suffered and Gower played just 3 tests after this incident. Geoff Boycott was too obsessed with his batting and technical correctness, that at times he played too slow for the team’s causes, also there is a famous incident of his when he was run out by Dennis Amiss and he was so furious that he commented “That bastard is scoring all my runs”, when Amiss went on to score a century. He is also said to have threatened to run him out the next match. He also did not get along with any of his captain and his relationships with Ian Botham and Brian Close are well known. Ian Botham had his own share of marijuana and cannabis troubles and his excessive talent always made him tough to get along. It was at this time, that Mike Brearly (one of the greatest cricketing minds ever) channelized his anger and talent and made him to create history in Botham’s Ashes in 1981. Pakistan had its bad boys in Javed Miandad , who never famously got along with Imran Khan. Relationships were often sour between these two legends, yet they managed to play in a single team for more than 20 years. Same can be said about Wasim Akram and Waqar . For India Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev and recently Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag with MS Dhoni, are examples where the team’s most talented players do not get along with the captain. Newzealand have Jesse Ryder with his perennial drinking troubles, Australia had Shane Warne.
In some of the cases like Miandad, Shane Warne the team environment never let any situation go out of hand. This should have been done with Pieterson. It is a known story that he did not get along with Strauss and recently Alastair Cook also. Now Matt Prior’s outburst against him suggests he had very few friends within the team. But like John Buchannan expertly handled Shane Warne, by loading him with his scientific comments. Warne, one who always thought cricket is more about playing and less about science went to the field with a fire to prove his coach wrong. Gary Kirsten also knew about Sehwag and Dhoni were not too fond with each other, yet created a pleasant dressing room. This is where Andy Flower seemed to have got wrong. His methods of correctness were always not going to be approved by Pieterson and like Buchanan handled Warne, he should have handled his greatest player more carefully and should have utilized his talents. But as the examples in the above paragraph show, not all teams have managed to bring the best out of their most talented player. At least the ECB could have had discussions with KP and the team and could have fostered an environment where KP would have thrived. But they decided getting rid of him was the best option. This decision of the ECB , the coach and the England set up have all contributed for the general public not to see a champion called Kevin Pieterson on the field.