On face value, Kevin Pietersen and ECB have stitched a win-win solution to the dispute. KP has rescued his career after repeated apologies, made with a bowed head and folded hands. Having read out the riot act, England regained their star player, reasserted their authority and showed that they call the shots. Just like the BCCI acted with Kapil Dev on the rehabilitation issue post-ICL.
Viewed from one angle, the KP-ECB spat was not dissimilar to the usual star player versus establishment tussle which played out not long back with Chris Gayle.
These matters are part of the dynamics of contemporary sport where, with increasing money/celebrity status/professionalism, the top performer's expectations put them on a path of conflict with the establishment. The equation is — player wants extra money and special treatment; the authorities, a step behind in grasping the changing commercial reality, are unwilling to accommodate his aspirations.
In KP's case, the head-on collision was waiting to happen. At the crease, he is a match winner who puts a high price on his wicket. Away from the playing area, he is cricket's box office who, again, puts a premium on his wonderful skills.
Trust and respect
The problem arises when, in a team sport like cricket, coach Andy Flower (known to be a no-nonsense sort) swears by equality and wants to treat everyone in the same manner. And while the ECB recognises the need for rewarding exceptional talent, which is why graded annual retainer contracts for players, they believe there are aspects of teamwork that are non-negotiable. The critical principles are trust and respect among team members and, according to the ECB, KP violated these by his actions.
The subtext of the KP-ECB dispute has interesting, and scary, implications for other teams. If trust and respect of the team is supreme, to the extent that all players have to submit to these at all times, there will be a crisis every week in dressing rooms.
Think of what could happen in Pakistan where, in the past, individuals have had a strong say, and trust and respect for players or team has hardly been a feature of their cricket. At the Gaddafi Stadium, insult is not unusual, nor is assault unknown. If action similar to that of KP was taken, they would struggle to put together a XI.
The situation in India too would be interesting. Greg Chappell accused senior players of working against Rahul Dravid, the captain. More recently, MS Dhoni was forced to parade his colleagues in front of the media to quell whispers of dissension.
The writer is a Delhi daredevils official