Spectator sport

From Lewis Hamilton to Kevin Pietersen – who’s the worst team player?

And why Jonny Wilkinson may be the best

31 May 2014

9:00 AM

31 May 2014

9:00 AM

Ah teamwork! There’s no me in team, as David Brent used to observe sagely, but there are often plenty of cocks, as he didn’t. And really, you get to thinking, Lewis Hamilton ought to start sorting himself out. He whines and moans just a tad too much. Watching Lewis and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg on the podium at Monaco, it was impossible to imagine how one human being could ignore another in so many ways in such a confined space. Max Mosley and the editor of the News of the World in the ante-room at the Pearly Gates couldn’t run them close.

Lewis has an alarming habit of not getting along with people, which can’t be good for his prospects. But there’s always a bright side for him, and it’s always in the sublime shape of Nicole Scherzinger, who was instructed to look after Lewis, to take him in hand so to speak, after the turmoils of the Grand Prix, back in their Monaco apartment, rather than go to the royal reception with Prince Albert, which doesn’t sound like much of a do compared to an evening with Nicole. Anyway, Lewis lucked into his only world title many years ago, and time’s beginning to run out. Let’s hope Niki Lauda can sort him out.

The one and only Jonny Wilkinson is every bit as driven and competitive as Lewis but has remorselessly failed to act like a prick. Ever. In fact, he’s becoming a secular saint. He is fabulously bonkers and Buddhist and his refusal to talk about himself at the expense of the team is almost exhausting. The force of his smile as he was held aloft by his Toulon team-mates with the Heineken Cup would have made a dead man weep. This was the power and beauty of great sport at its purest. Jonny is retiring, of course, at just 35, which seems slightly batty as he would get into any team in the world. He’s played twice against England’s first choice No. 10 Owen Farrell in the last 12 months and made him look distinctly ordinary.

Perhaps the best-known cricketer who couldn’t get on with anybody is Kevin Pietersen. The England cricket chief Paul Downton laid into KP over his behaviour at the Sydney Test this year, saying he looked ‘disinterested’ (wrong word Paul, but we know what you mean). I can remember sitting at the Vauxhall End watching KP at the Oval against South Africa in 2012, and it was the same. While South Africa amassed some immense total, KP stood detached from all the action, waving at people in the stands, hopping into the crowds to sip water, sign autographs or pose for pictures. Talented, yes, but a team player? Come off it. So when England are shut out for 99 by Sri Lanka, don’t carp on about KP. His form with the Delhi Daredevils is lamentable, and the team have barely won a match under his leadership.

You won’t find a better example of a team, not according to my copy of the Tory manifesto anyway, than marriage. Hmm, hold on a minute. Wasn’t that Rory McIlroy just storming home at Wentworth in the PGA with four stunning rounds of golf, his first win in Europe, just days after dumping his long-time girlfriend and fiancée Caroline Wozniacki, even though the wedding invitations had gone out? Rory had clearly been listening to The Archers. But had love been holding him back? Had it been holding her back, for that matter? Should all Sunday hackers go out and ditch their wives ahead of the monthly medal?

Older golfers, though, sometimes find that a new love improves their game. In 2008, at 53 and three weeks after marrying Chris Evert, Greg Norman led with nine holes to go in the Open at Birkdale, eventually finishing third. It was the first major he had entered for three years. The marriage? Not such good news, I’m afraid. They split up in 2009.

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Roger Alton is executive editor of the Times.

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