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The Kevin Pieterson Debacle by Adam Hollioake 08 Oct 2012

I wrote on twitter last night and was bombarded with responses…way more than usual and this prompted me to write a blog. It was obvious that this was a topic that’s important to people and has wide & varying opinions.

The topic of course is Kevin Pieterson and his omission from the England set up. The tweet I put out was that I felt Kevin Pieterson shouldn't be left out of any England team and should be in the England set up
Let me first qualify that I am a massive advocate of teamwork and have been responsible in my time for drilling people to the point of madness on the topic of teamwork. I have had many opinions on what it requires to make a great team and have evolved immeasurably on this topic. When faced with topics that are this difficult I like to strip things back to as simple as possible. For me you pick your best players possible and then manage them. Of course you cant have a team of difficult players but one or two is ok I feel. At this stage all I can do is share my experiences at Surrey & England for I don't have anything else to compare it to. Of course I didn't get along famously with every player in my team for the 7 years I was captain, in life you do not get along with everyone and therefore it is not realistic to think that all players in a team will do so. There were people in the Surrey team who were just dead set difficult but they were fine players. My job was not to like them but to get them in line and manage them and the rest of the team to accept them for what they were. For me that was my job as captain.
Lets break it down
The job of a cricketer is to play cricket as well as you can and score more runs than the opposition.
The job of a selector is to pick the best cricketers available
The job of the Management is to manage the cricketers that the selectors pick
The job of the team is to win as many games of cricket as possible.
Of course this is easy on paper but in reality is far more difficult.
For me there are too many instances of people allowing personal differences to come into selection. Like I said before there were people in the Surrey team that I just didn't like, but they were the best players to win Surrey games of cricket and it was my job to manage them. For me it is a soft option for the management to drop a player based on his personality or the fact there is a clash of your personalities. I have to say at this point that I am a huge Andy Flower fan and consider him a friend. He was a wonderful batsman (the best in the world for a while) and has taken England to number 1 in all forms of the game. On top of this he is a wonderful human being. I can imagine his decision is an emotional one. It is tough when one of your players publicly or even privately criticizes you. I had many occasions when I was aware that people didn't agree with decisions I had made or just didn't like me, it hurts and I am guilty of making knee jerk decisions and dropping people. Again it is up to you as the leader of the team to rise above this and find a way of either resolving the problem or finding a way to enable your differences to be agreed upon and not affect the rest of the team. It is uncomfortable and certainly a distraction. I am not in the England changing room and am not aware of just how bad these differences are. If I know Andy like I think I do, he won’t have made the decision without a lot of thought. I also think he will find the best way to bring KP back because ultimately that is the correct decision.
I think the media certainly haven’t helped things (in this instance I don't blame them), like any hot topic things have been put under the microscope and analysed and over analysed, the problem is that sometimes when you are zoomed in on your microscope and analysing the miniscule cell in the lens you lose sight of what it is you are actually viewing…is it the cell of a cow or a human.
 …some of the topics that have been discussed ranging from “Where Pieterson’s texts he sent to the South Africans derogatory or provocative” or “How to reintegrate Pieterson back into the team” are for me nothing short of topics that have come about from getting way too many people involved in the topic and have lost sight of the big picture.
Lets look at the facts, Pieterson is obviously a dick in the team environment. I have personally have never had anything but good experiences involving him and I hear from certain individuals he is a decent guy....but I am not his team mate. He has proven his weaknesses on too many occasions in too many dressing rooms. He struggles to get along with all the other members in his team…there is no hiding the fact he has a very high opinion of himself. But the fact still remains he is the best batsman in England and when at his best he is the best player in the world. He does things that other players can only dream of.
I am unaware if the England players have stated that they don't have a desire to have Pieterson in the team but I think it is possible that this is what their feelings would be. I think this is as much of an error as the errors Pieterson makes within the changing room. That said I understand this emotion and there are several times I wanted to drop people because I felt there presence was disruptive and the players in the team didn't like them. I have in fact done this but in hindsight feel I was wrong to do so. I think it falls on the shoulders of the person in charge to explain to the other members of the team that they aren’t on their own in thinking the player is disruptive but for the good of the team they need to just get on with it and ignore the trouble maker…for the trouble maker can only be disruptive if allowed to be….
Sports teams (or company’s) are really a reflection of society and in society we have all types of people….good people, bad people, comedians, gays, drug addicts etc etc…
Just because these players are talented in their chosen profession doesn't mean that they will automatically morph into a team of people who all socialise together and be Godparents to one another’s children. Just as in the office where there are people who are hard to get on with, sports teams are no different. The job of the coach/management is to work out if the player causing the problems is a good enough player to outweigh the effort that goes in to managing the situation…I personally think that Kevin Peiterson is a once in a generation batsman and I would try to put aside any differences and find a place for him in the team. I think my focus would be on helping the rest of the team cope with his difficultness (is there such a word?)…I think the conversation would be along these lines…”Yes, he is a dick…. we all know that, so let’s just accept that and move on…I’m not expecting you to be foster parents for one another, I’m just asking you to play cricket together” “He will win you games of cricket and will enable the team to win more games if you can just ignore him”
You need to remove the argument on whether or not he is a good team player or the desire to measure just where he sits on the bad bloke scale…If you accept he is a bad bloke and don't expect any positive input from him (apart from his runs) then you can move on.
So many people have thrown the argument at me that he is disruptive and that a team will work better without him…this is the million dollar response and is a very good argument. I personally don't think any international cricketer should find it hard to block Pieterson out as a distraction if they are united in their acknowledgment of him being a dick. For cricketers (infact all international athletes) are masters of dealing with situations…like media, rowdy crowds, loss of form, injury etc etc. It only becomes an issue if the management allow it to be an issue…I feel the original problems were bought upon himself by Pieterson but now there has become an unnecessary stand off and in reality everyone needs to take a step back and work out how we get back to being the number 1 side in the world…
I think both parties have to acknowledge they are better working together and that it isn’t a case of anyone winning a popularity contest merely what is the best outcome for England to win as many games of cricket as possible…
Just as in life we don't always like people in our country…they may have different interests, some may gamble some may have a different religion, some may be outspoken, but the measure of a good and fair society is accepting we are all different, free speech has become a topic of great debate over time because of these very reasons. Bottom line is we don't have to love each other as people to form a good team…sometimes it is the acceptance of the differences of the individuals that allows a team to flourish…In the perfect world we would all be, well we would all be perfect…..

by Adam Hollioake


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