Thursday, 8 January 2009

Pietersen's personal problems become public property

Kevin Pietersen paid the price for letting his personal issues with Peter Moores lead him, although perversely England are perhaps now better-placed than they were when the crisis hit.

Much mystery surrounds the current England crisis. The Moores – Pietersen furore developed from the fact that the pair did not see eye-to-eye. We don’t know exactly what that means and due to the outgoing coach’s reticence in talking about the affair, we will perhaps never truly discover what made the protagonists’ relationship so unworkable.

How can a coach and captain clash so catastrophically? It should be taken as read that both want what is best for the team, so it follows that neither should take umbrage at how this is achieved.

I cannot believe that there were sufficient ideological differences between Moores and Pietersen as to how the team should be coached, trained, organised and selected to justify the obvious bad blood.

It is reported that Pietersen did not like the coach’s harsh fitness regime and took exception to Moores’ challenging of senior players. The former grievance could be resolved by sensible discussion; the latter prodded the captain’s ego. And this is the crux of the matter; make no mistake, this fallout was personal.

Why else would Pietersen demand a long meeting with the coach to confirm they were ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ before accepting the job? He simply did not rate Moores as a coach (probably due to the modern obsession with having coaches who played at the top level) and more significantly, did not like or trust him.

Some culpability must lie with the ECB for failing to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each man, but Moores and Pietersen should have found a way to make the relationship work. That they couldn’t reveals much about their shortcomings in their respective roles.

Man-management is often mentioned as a key responsibility of the modern sporting coach and Moores was clearly lacking in this area, with some players (although not as many as was thought) reporting he had ‘lost’ the dressing room.

Pietersen – perhaps as unmanageable as they come – was even less proficient in working with others. The fact that he did not receive universal team support in his anti-coach machinations will come as a massive shock, revealing a lack of judgment to go alongside his characteristics of arrogance, tactical naivety and disloyalty – a checklist for constructing a bad captain.

England are therefore not as badly off as it appears. Andrew Strauss is more than just a safe pair of hands – he is, and has been for three years, the best candidate for the job and has the experience and nous to heal the dressing room rifts, which are at least now out in the open rather than bubbling away under the surface.

Concerns over the One Day captaincy and the prospects of a split role are secondary – England’s limited overs planning was as poor as it ever has been in India and there is hardly anything to throw away in again starting from scratch.

Pietersen will do just fine back in the ranks, as there is no batsman around better-suited to concentrating on his own game and prospering against a wave of Australian sledging.

The team will be better off without a coach that could not help player development and a leadership axis that could not put personal differences aside in the quest for co-operation.

Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.


Richard Lake said...

Philip - this is the best assessment of the situation that I have read.

His main attribute as captain was not of tactical nous, otherwise he wouldn't have wanted Vaughan to hold his hand in the West Indies. It was his swagger that the team could fall behind. Having lost the dressing room, to use football parlance, he was just one man swaggering.

Andrew Strauss, having rebuilt his game over the past 18 months, is the man who should have been captain for the last Ashes series, but for the ECB giving the job to the other big name and ego in the team, Flintoff.

England have enough time to build to the Ashes, and the ECB need to learn that the popular choice is not always the correct one.

Nick Gammons said...

Philip, you make an outstanding summary - cutting right to the centre of what appears a complicated situation.

I also think that, for once, the ECB actually acted quickly and decisively, managing a tricky situation as well as was possible.

I agree with Richard that Strauss is the ideal candidate to attempt to heal the rift, though there were not any other viable options for captain. He should have been the captain for the last Ashes tour, as he had shown great personal form and nous as captain in the preceding series.

I look forward to seeing how he manages Pietersen and whether KP's ego improves his game or dismantles it.

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