What managers can learn from the England cricket fiasco

You can't be dictated to by your star performer - so the ECB was right to stand up to Kevin Pietersen.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So it looks as though the well-publicised spat between England cricket captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores has ended in tears for all concerned – the two men have either jumped or been pushed (depending on who you believe). But despite the unfortunate ramifications of the decision, we reckon the England Cricket Board got it right - eventually - and there’s an interesting lesson in there for any business manager who’s struggling to contain the ambitions of their top performer...

To recap for non-cricket fans (who should bear with us, because we do have a point here, honest): Pietersen took over the captaincy last summer, inheriting the incumbent coach Moores. The team has a chequered Test record since (won one, drawn one, lost one) but it seems the two men have never seen eye-to-eye. Over the New Year, Pietersen's concerns were made public (though he seemed to suggest today this was nothing to do with him) – effectively giving his bosses at the ECB a ‘him or me’-style ultimatum. Apparently the answer was: ‘neither’; today, both Pietersen and Moores are out of a job.

And frankly, we’re glad. As England’s top batsman, Pietersen was the outstanding candidate for the job last year (apart from being technically South African, perhaps) and has so far performed reasonably well in the role. He seems to have thought that this would make him untouchable in a power struggle. However, the fact remains that he's only the captain; it’s not his job to hire and fire coaches. So quite rightly, the ECB has been brave enough to decide that it can’t be dictated to by any employee about issues outside their remit – no matter how good he is.

Admittedly they should never have let the situation fester long enough to get to this stage, given it seems to have been common knowledge for months. And this isn't quite like business – after all, it’s not like Pietersen can go off and sell his services to another national team (erm, again). What's more, the ECB’s decision was surely helped by the fact that Pietersen doesn't seem to have the full support of his players, particularly after dragging this into the public domain. Nonetheless, the principle still stands: giving in to your star performer like this fatally undermines the authority of your management – not only with the person concerned but with the rest of the team too.

Unfortunately for England, this admirable decision also creates a whole world of problems. There’s no obvious candidate to take over the captaincy permanently (stand-in replacement Andrew Strauss isn’t even in the one-day squad at the moment) and they’re unlikely to have a permanent coach in place before the forthcoming tour. Not exactly ideal, six months before the start of the Ashes series. And then there’s the question of how Pietersen will react to this very livid ego bruising. Regardless of his people skills (or lack thereof), he’s England’s best player by a country mile, so the team can’t really afford for him to spend the next year in a sulk. That will require some impeccable man-management skills from Strauss...


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What managers can learn from the England cricket fiasco
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