“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief” – Proverbs 24:16
Last Tuesday it was reported on the West Indies Cricket Board web site, after Game One of the DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur, that “It was a heartbreaking end after Chanderpaul blistered the Aussie bowlingâ€¦slamming ten fours and four sixes and Gayle needed only 49 balls to notch up 60. Chanderpaul spent the first few overs assessing the conditions then the left hander unleashed a ceaseless array of strokes to knock the Aussies to the floor but they picked themselves up, stuck to their guns and eventually the Windies batting capitulated through some disappointing and unnecessary extravagant stroke play when cruise control was required to steer the ship home”.
Whenever we think that the WI cricket team’s performance cannot get worse, they prove us wrong. The “wicked” fall into mischief. It is not morally right for highly paid talented individuals to regularly capitulate from positions of strength, much to the chagrin of their faithful supporters. It reeks of lack of psychological fortitude, lack of responsibility, lack of accountability, lack of management and lack of leadership.
The seemingly helpless captain, whose statistical consistency as a batsman has passed its zenith, was quoted after the match as saying “It is difficult to comprehend. It is a situation where we were definitely on course for victory and found a way to lose the game. It looked really bad. 172 for 1 and to get rolled over for 201â€¦is it really happening? We’ve got to dig deep, we’ve still got the series in front of us, we have a game on Thursday (against India), we’ve got to put this one behind us and that psychological advantage that we had over India (earlier in the year) we have to continue here”. Even though there can be little argument that Australia is the leader in world cricket and, indeed, it is said that the second best team in the world is Australia “B”, this was a great opportunity to beat Australia, with seven of their top players “on the bench”. We lost valuable points which could have charted our path to the finals of the DLF Cup.
Fortuitously for the West Indies, we obtained maximum points from Game 2 against India last Thursday. I think that this victory was against the odds, after the magnificent batting of Tendulkar and others which put India in a very strong position. It was due to an “Act of God” and the resulting Duckworth-Lewis system which is based on the fact that the WI run rate was greater than Australia’s over the first 20 overs. How many of us were confident enough to think that the 20 over run rate advantage would have been sustained over 50 overs? The paradox is that, despite this despicable performance on Tueday, we may still be on a path to get to the finals of the DLF Cup.
Cricket is not a casino game where all players have a very small probability of winning at any given time. In cricket the probability of winning is directly related to the diligence with which we develop psychological fortitude, responsibility, accountability, management and leadership. This is my focus today.
Dr. Kate F. Hays, Sport Psychologist, has been reported as saying “Yogi Berra’s zany explanation that ‘half of any sport is 90% mental’ probably describes sport psychology better than any formal definition could. By emphasizing what goes on between our ears, as well as in our hands, with our stance, or on the field, he reminds us that even in physical activity, human beings are mental as well as physical creatures. And it is the interaction, the relationship between mind and body, that forms the core of sport psychology”. How does the West Indies team management rate in its application of a sports psychology curriculum for the team?
Cricket is a business. Do we think it is just a game? The players deliver a service to paying consumers. Do they understand their responsibilities? Does the West Indies Players’ Association help in this regard? To what extent does the WI team have performance targets, the achievement of which relate to their pay packet? Benchmarking means identifying accurate historical data against which a data set can be compared now and in the future. Are the cricketers’ performance targets related to international benchmarks or do we accept what we get and just keep on saying “we got to dig deep” or “we must put that behind us”? Performance appraisals are just as essential for the effective management and evaluation of players as they are for other company staff. Appraisals help develop individuals, improve organizational performance, and feed into business planning.
Do the members of the WI team receive any self-development training? Do potential and existing cricket captains at all levels receive any leadership training? Is the coaching staff happy with the fitness of the team members? I believe that an analysis of the West Indies cricket governance problem would reveal several gaps between what is practised and the international benchmarks. If not addressed with diligence and as a matter of urgency, I fear that the “wicked” will continue to fall into mischief.