Selection headaches: Best players or best team?
The recent dropping of Kevin Peterson, arguably one of the most talented players in the England cricket team, has highlighted an interesting debate for coaches, managers, and selectors involved in team sports. Do you pick the best players or the best team? Kevin Peterson is a very talented cricket player, and on his day he can be one of the most destructive players in international cricket. But, at the same time, Peterson appears to have an issue when it comes to fitting into a team. This has culminated in the England cricket governing body (the ECB) dropping Peterson for the upcoming crucial last test against a very good South Africa team. This is an interesting decision, as in the last test match Peterson scored 150 runs, which for those new to cricket is a very good score. Peterson is in good form, and will be missed. This is further compounded by the fact that England need to win the last game of the series against South Africa to remain the number one team in the world (if England fail to win South Africa will replace them as the number one ranked team in the world).
There is an obviously no close fit between the rest of the England team and Peterson, but whose issue should this be? Is it Petersons responsibility to integrate with the rest of the team, or should the team accomodate Peterson in their system as he is obviously a very talented player? Can a successful team really afford to accomodate potentially challenging or difficult players? The answers to these questions could have a significant impact upon the way that you look to build or improve a team. Can a team really be better than the sum of its parts, or is success dependent upon star performers. If you look at other successful teams across a range of sports that have high profile ‘stars’ it would be interesting to see the extent to which the teams have been built to accomodate the stars, or the star has just adapted to that team environment and then excelled.
This issue could also have a knock-on effect, impacting upon talent identification and talent development. Are the systems set up to accomodate for flawed genius, or are they designed to produce the ‘best fit’ options from which to build the most coherent team.
So back to England, the fans on Thursday will miss Peterson, because as his friend Piers Morgan stated in a radio interview on Monday “KP is box office, and sells seats”. The England team, regardless of what they say publicly, will be weaker, so it will be interesting to see how the team fairs. It is a very bold stance that the ECB have adopted on this issue, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. The stories of texts and twitter accounts, are symptoms of the underlying problem that appears to exist at the moment between the ECB and one of their most talented players. The general consensus in team sports is that no-one is bigger than the team, but from a media coverage perspective at least Peterson is giving the ECB a run for their money. Many people have commended the ECB for the stance they have taken in dropping Peterson, but it will be interesting to see if this is the case if the England cricket team lose the test, the series and their world number one ranking to South Africa.
Let me know what you think about the dropping of Kevin Peterson. If you are interested in team psychology why not take a look at my new book ‘Team Psychology, published earlier this year: