According to the rumours, which would have been dispelled within seconds were there not an element of truth to them, Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen are at loggerheads with Flower wanting KP out and threatening to quit if he doesn’t get his way:
On Wednesday, Flower denied he issued an ultimatum that would see either him or Pietersen, 33, quit the team.
As with politics, denials in sports often serve more as confirmations than anything else.
There are a lot of people who can’t stand KP and would be happy to see him kicked out of the England side. Opposition bowlers, for starters. But the fact is KP finished the disastrous Ashes series as England’s top scorer with 294 runs to his name. Whatever the reasons for England’s 5-0 drubbing, Kevin Pietersen is not to blame.
Some commentators are expressing surprise that a manager who has presided over a shambolic campaign and catastrophic defeat should be focussing on the removal of his top performer. Me, I’m not surprised in the slightest. The England cricket team is far from the only place where senior managers who have demonstratively failed to deliver what was expected turn on anyone who can be labelled as nonconformist – be it somebody who is outspoken, opinionated, or simply wants to play in the IPL. In such situations, individual performance matters not one jot, slavish conformity is the only attribute demanded.
When things are going well, nonconformity is often tolerated, or at least ignored, as senior managers bask in the glory of their (perceived) own success. Ironically, it is when things are going badly that the screws are tightened and dissent outlawed. Note that Stalin didn’t have people shot for complaining about imaginary problems. The sad fact is that in the bad times managers want their subordinates to behave like sheep, slavishly nodding in unison at whatever stupidity is being peddled from above. Decent managers should never want oversight of a flock of sheep: Alex Ferguson demanded loyalty but not conformity (there’s a difference), and reaped the rewards when he retained the services of Eric Cantona.
I’m sure Andy Flower now wants a flock of sheep under him as this will allow him to write the prescription to his own failures himself, free of contradictory voices or people unhelpfully saying “I told you so” or, more cruelly, demanding “What the f*ck did you expect?!” Such a situation should not be allowed by the ECB, but in the event he gets his way and KP is booted for being a consistent performer who refused to become a sheep, he won’t be the first. Conformity, docility, and acquiescence are what modern managers demand, and performance, at times, barely seems to matter.