It’s difficult to comprehend how a team so famed for their total dedication to organisation and unity came to be involved in this debacle. England’s soon-to-be-temporary rise to the top of the Test rankings has been characterised by collective endeavour and ruthless attention to detail. Only by forging a sum greater than its parts can a team containing Tim Bresnan make it to number 1.
So, with the recent salmagundi of Twitter ‘banter’, leaked contract talks, a half-resignation, texts to the opposition, Afrikaans swear words, a YouTube u-turn and squad-omittance the once carefully managed media image of the ECB has been vandalised by team disharmony.
The lure of a full 2013 season at the IPL has been enough to expose the isolation of KP. But the handling of this episode has been very un-England. Strauss and Flower are impeccable leaders of men and have clearly put the team above their star individual. But where were they when Swann was bad-mouthing KP and Samit Patel in his autobiography?
No doubt the prickly, sensitive and brash former captain has been persona non grata in the England dressing room for some time, but his, and the team’s, performances can barely said to have suffered as a result. Indeed, around the same time as the offending texts were pinging via satellites from one Headingly changing quarters to the next, KP knocked a sublime hundred as England gained a creditable draw against a strong SA. Elite sporting teams don’t need to all get along to produce success.
The instances of fierce animosity in winning sports teams are as many as the number of driven, egotistical and arrogant sports stars who have made it to the top of their games. Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole couldn’t stand each other yet were instrumental in Man Utd’s treble success. The feud between Shaq and Kobe has its own Wikipedia page. Formula One teams often seem to stoke up rivalries between their drivers to boost their performance.
All of these examples mean that KP can be reintegrated. While he still possesses superhuman talents which are to the benefit of the team, his coach, captain and colleagues will continue to do their best to accommodate him.
Such sporting pragmatism led Mancini to reach out to Carlos Tevez last season. In that case, as in this, all it will take is a half-hearted apology to provide some face-saving cover and KP will be back to smash his SMS recipients all around the World T20 Championship.