On the Dismissal of KP

I was going to write a post on Kevin Pietersen’s forced departure from the England cricket setup, but George Dobell has said it perfectly in an article already.  Some excerpts:

If you can’t manage, you shouldn’t be in management. By allowing the situation to reach this conclusion and in taking such a drastic decision, this is a catastrophic failure of management. England are not embracing change, they are embracing mediocrity.

Ah, but isn’t that just the very definition of modern management – and not just in sports: plenty of people with the title of manager with very little actual management going on?  For several years I’ve been fond of responding to supposed managers bleating about some administrative problem or other with “You’re a Manager: manage!”  Most managers do fine when the train they’re on is trundling along okay, even if it’s headed in the completely wrong direction, but when something unexpected or difficult comes up they either stand by and do nothing or thrash about helplessly.  Fair weather management is the norm.

England’s new management team may feel that this is a strong decision. But truly strong leaders accept alternatives, diversity and imperfection. Strong leaders are flexible and embrace difference. Strong leaders understand that genius very often comes at a cost, but a cost that is worth paying.


There are two points here.  Firstly, when managers make what they think is a strong decision, it is usually the wrong one.  Now there are managers who consistently make bold decisions – although they are a rare breed – but I’m not talking about them.  I’m talking about those who through weak and ineffective management allow a situation to develop to crisis point before being forced to make a decision under pressure.  No manager who has mishandled the easy stuff is going to be able to make the right decision when he’s forced to act.  And the ECB, having sleepwalked into a situation which saw the England team lose 12 matches out of 13 down under, have lashed out in an unwise direction.

Secondly, that bit about embracing difference is important.  I must have sat through literally dozens of presentations about diversity in the workplace, complete with attendees and examples of people of all ages, colours, nationalities, cultures, backgrounds, and both sexes.  But never, not once, was diversity of thought even mentioned.  Personally, I think a diverse workplace is worthy goal to aim for, but there is little point in having everybody look different if they are all forced to think alike.  It’s ironic that modern management stresses the importance of diversity whilst at the same time fostering a culture in which unthinking conformity and being a sheep is the only desirable attribute in an employee.

The finality of this announcement will also hinder the next team director. Any credible applicant for that job will want to assemble their own team, appoint their own captain and make their own judgements on players.

And isn’t that also a feature of modern management?  Most managers are nothing of the sort, they are mere administrators with an erroneous title.  Give me 10 minutes in any enterprise, company, organisation, or project and I’ll show you somebody who is nominally the manager of an area, department, or process but isn’t actually allowed to make the fundamental decisions which determine success or failure.  In the best cases these people are merely automatons stuck in front of the public for show (e.g. branch managers at a bank, who in the case of Barclays have neither an email address nor a direct phone line); in the worst cases they are the poor sods who have responsibility heaped on them but with no commensurate authority.  And boy, do I know what that feels like.

Suppose the new England coach comes in and decides he wants Pietersen to play.  What’s the ECB going to say?  No?  In which case, the coach isn’t the coach, he’s just some patsy who’s paid to wear a coach’s hat for a bit.  The world would be a better place if more people didn’t take these jobs.

England supporters deserve answers. It is unacceptably arrogant to dismiss their legitimate interest with an evasive media statement. It is unacceptable to discard England’s highest international run-scorer without explaining exactly why the management believe the team will be stronger without him. It is absurd to claim that, with two global events in the next 12 months and one within weeks, that this is the time to start a long-term rebuilding operation. And it is disingenuous to claim, via off-the-record briefings, that all the senior players were canvassed and gave negative views on Pietersen. Several, at least, claim to be as confused by this episode as Pietersen seems to be. The ECB has to be more transparent and accountable.

It is often the case that the most incompetent managers are also the most arrogant and dismissive, unwilling or unable to justify the decisions which more often than not contribute to catastrophe.  Naturally, when this happens there is little self-reflection, just more arrogance and self-delusion.  I doubt any of this lot at the ECB are going to shoulder any of the blame should England cricket continue on its path of decline and we get thumped by India in the summer.  They’ll just find another scapegoat and move on.  Modern Management 101.

It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that it is the institution at fault, not the individuals. Change may well be required, but it is right at the top that it should start.

Perhaps, but that betrays all the principles of modern management.  Bollock the tea-boy, fire the engineer, kick the dog, but never, ever touch the senior management.

When people said not so long ago that English cricket had entered a new era and were the epitome of a modern sports outfit, they didn’t know how right they were.  Altogether now: baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!



8 thoughts on “On the Dismissal of KP

  1. One problem with cricket is that the players, especially the batsmen, have long careers – longer than “the management”, typically. So any one management can claim that they’ve been handed insoluble problems by their predecessors.

    I assume that KP is massively arrogant, selfish, and troublesome while also being really rather dim. A natural tennis player perhaps, but in a team game he needs management – and, as you say, that art is out of fashion. But you have to accept that even the most skilled manager needs to have sacking someone as one of the arrows in his quiver.

  2. I assume that KP is massively arrogant, selfish, and troublesome while also being really rather dim.

    To a point. Yes, he’s massively arrogant, but arrogance, swagger, and indomitable self-belief is hardly uncommon in a top-class sportsman, and almost all the great teams (across all sports) have had at least one, sometimes two players like him. You wouldn’t want the whole team to be like this, but you need one or two. It’s not as if the England team was exactly filled with characters and personalities, is it?

    I don’t agree that he is selfish, certainly his shot selection and aspects of his play would suggest this, but even those teammates who don’t like him don’t suggest he doesn’t pull his weight or help people. I’ve noticed him talking to the bowlers a lot in the field, he does get himself involved. But yes, he is troublesome, and he seems to revel in that role (a bit like me in fact, which is perhaps why I have sympathy for him).

    As for his being dim, I don’t think he’s the brightest spark but when the memoirs are written it might be revealed that KP called it how it was while the rest of his teammates either didn’t realise or did but chose to adopt a stance which would interest a passing Welshman. That said, if the rumours about him bagging James Taylor on his debut are true then he is a world class dick, especially given how much support he got from Taylor in the middle at Headingly.

    But you have to accept that even the most skilled manager needs to have sacking someone as one of the arrows in his quiver.

    Indeed, but my beef is that this arrow is rarely used on incompetents but is deployed with gay abandon against anyone who does not conform. I’m not saying that Pietersen should have been untouchable, far from it; but after the catastrophe that was this recent tour the England management should be trying to find out how and why this occurred, not hunting for scapegoats. Whatever Pietersen did or didn’t do, his attitude on the Ashes tour was bang on and his performance better than anyone else’s.

  3. Yes it really has been a great Ashes series in so many ways and then there is the totaly entertaining and value adding encores by the ECB.

    On your post and the further comment, isn’t it the selectors that decide who plays in the team?

    I know all the cricket aficionados will disagree, but I cant see why being a team player trumps runs scored, when it comes to being a batsman.

    As for management yes there is a dearth of it, but this can only be advantageous to an effective manager in a competitive an incentivised market. I have worked in both very large and smaller organisations at the senior level and the inherent management skills are far higher in the smaller organisations. Right now I am in a smaller rapidly growing organisation, where the management are far more effective and accountable than my last mob, which was the biggest contractor in Australia. I have just finished a whirlwind visit to Sydney with an owner who is now getting into management, even though he is a multi millionaire, I am mentoring him. In the short time he has been in the role he would already be one of the most effective, driven and decisive managers that I have had the pleasure of working with.

  4. “my beef is that this arrow is rarely used on incompetents but is deployed with gay abandon against anyone who does not conform”: there you have my unqualified agreement. The difference between a boss who wants jobs done well, and a boss who wants genuflections, is as day and night.

  5. @Bardon:

    On your post and the further comment, isn’t it the selectors that decide who plays in the team?

    I’m not sure, it varies between countries and keeps changing. I know at one point the Australian captain had a say in who plays, which was a monumentally bad idea.

    I know all the cricket aficionados will disagree, but I cant see why being a team player trumps runs scored, when it comes to being a batsman.

    There are a lot of cricket fans who would agree with that, me included. The general rule in sport is that you can be an asshole provided you are playing well.

    As for the management…I’ve worked for giant companies, tiny companies, and medium-sized companies and I’ve seen shockingly bad management in each. I reached the conclusion a couple of years back that the size of company or name above the door means absolutely nothing in terms of competence and performance: it all comes down to the individuals. It’s why I don’t get pissed off at companies any more, I take the individuals as they come.

  6. If anyone knows who does the selection for the English cricket team I would appreciate it if they could let me know on here.

    I was going to say that the most sterile and Stepford wife loving manager type of company that I have experienced was Exxon Mobil, but come to think of it, I too have experienced bad manages in some smaller locally based companies many years go.

    Maybe you tend to gravitate towards better managed companies as you progress through your career. My plan is to retire at 55 and do the board circuits, that way I can focus on my fishing exploits between meetings.

  7. Some damming facts now emerging on the reasoning for KP being stood down by the ECB.

    Apparently he held an ambition to score 10,000 test runs!

    Oh and the team players are decided on by a panel of selectors.

  8. It gets better, while looking into the English selectors I have discovered some new gems!

    Just listen to the recent interview given by James Whitaker the new national selector and you will hear why my level of joy has increased. Here is snippet of the new leaderships view on the KP P45 issuance.

    His cliches remind me of Cook’s defeat language.

    How big a decision was it for the group not to pick Kevin Pietersen going forward?

    Yes, while it’s a surprise going into an ICC competition without one of our leading run scorers, the players and the management group are well rehearsed in coping without him. So, yes, in a way a tricky decision, but in another way it gives an opportunity for players to play in that environment and excel in it.

    I appreciate there are things you can’t say as legal things are still going on, but the burning question seems to be, James, and you are the national selector, and in a way the buck stops with you about selecting players, why the decision was made to leave Kevin out?

    That is a legal position which at the moment I’m not at liberty to say. [Phone rings in jacket pocket] I thought I’d turned that off.

    Interview interrupted

    The burning question has been about why that decision has been made, and an explanation has been demanded by the cricketing public.

    Yes I can imagine that is the case. But unfortunately I’m not in a position to reiterate what reasons there have been. But what I can say is that there’s a group of players there looking forward to re-energising this team, going forward with different values, re-evaluating the culture of the team, and it will start in the West Indies, and I’ve every confidence in the players that we’ll take to the West Indies that will happen.

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