Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A professional attitude

There has inevitably been a great deal of controversy over Australia's decision to drop four players from the Test series in India for not preparing an assignment given to them by their coach, and unsurprisingly much of the reaction has been negative, regarding the actions taken as a clumsy and counter-productive overreaction. While this is an understandable response, and one that I shared initially, after reading this article by Brydon Coverdale I found my mind entirely changed.

If you want to save time reading the article, it boils down to this: These are highly-paid sportsmen doing a job, and this doesn't stop when they leave the field. They had ample time to complete a relatively simple task and failed to do so, and it is inconceivable that professional sportsmen could go four days without thinking about ways to improve the team's performance for the time required to complete the task. If they still couldn't think of anything, "don't know" would have been an acceptable answer provided it was an honest one. If they couldn't get this done then right now they are not serious enough about playing Test cricket. "You're a grown man with your own brain and you get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play this game. You're a professional. So why haven't you acted like one?" It's a very persuasive argument.

The task set for them was a simple one: reflect on the tour so far and think of one technical aspect, one mental aspect and one teamwork aspect that can improve the team's performance in the next Test. It was that bloody simple. All the time the team coach and no doubt all manner of other support personnel were one hand to talk if required. Given the nature of the task I'm sure they'd have been happy to talk about it. If I'd been on the tour I could see myself getting sent home not because I didn't have ideas but because everyone was sick and tired of me taking all their time up with them.

So I thought I'd try it myself, in relation to Stafford 4th XI, and an hour later I'd come up with the following:

  • We need to identify a designated ball polisher and make sure the polisher and the bowlers know what they expect from each other, and that everyone in the team understands the importance of properly maintaining the ball. We very rarely seem to manage consistent periods of swing and we need to improve on this.
  • In general we need to do more fielding practise.
  • I personally need to improve most aspects of my batting, but given my likely role in the team I particularly need to work on manoeuvring the ball for singles.
  • We make too many mistakes in the field from loss of concentration. We need to learn to be switched on from the first ball to the last. This should go without saying but unfortunately it does need to be pointed out. 
  • We need to show more positive body language in the field, and more urgency between overs.
  • Please can we stop putting negative thoughts in the batsmen's minds just as they're walking out to bat. It may be funny at the time but it hampered our overall batting performance considerably last year. In so far as a batsman needs a pep talk before starting his innings it should come from the captain and should be positive. 
  • Our batsmen need to work on the mentality of building an innings and adjusting to the match situation. Too often some of our batsmen go too hard too soon and others adopt tactics that are questionable within the context of the match at that particular time. There's nothing macho about getting out early slogging.
  • We need to make sure we properly understand what we as individuals are each trying to get out of our afternoon's cricket, and what we see as our particular niche within the team. If we do this we will all get more enjoyment and are more likely to develop a settled and cohesive team and less likely to be scrabbling round for players every weekend.
  • Shouts of “keeper's end” and “bowler's end” should only come from the set of stumps it's intended for the fielder to throw at. I have often heard a shout of “bowler's end” with my back turned and in my haste to get the ball back have instinctively thrown the ball where the shout came from. This procedure would save both time and misfields and increase the chances of effecting a run-out.
  • Please can I have the ball back as soon as possible when I'm bowling. I need to be thinking about what to bowl next, not worrying about who's going to throw the ball at me and when, and I need to get the feel of the ball in order to bowl well. Furthermore I sometimes need to be able to rush the batsman a bit, or make up for slower over rates earlier in the match, and this is only possible if the ball comes back to me quickly.
  • We need to find more singles and byes. They are there to be had but pairs of batsmen sometimes miss out through a lack of prompt calling or outright selfishness. Singles are important to give the bowler additional challenges to make his life harder, as well as cumulatively putting more runs on the board.
  • We need to have debriefs after the match to identify aspects we can work on and build team spirit. All sorts of little annoyances spring up on the field that can't be shared in the heat of battle so we need to have a few minutes after the match when we can. I suggest we get in the habit of all having a drink round the same table shortly after the match has finished.
What's interesting, and what is no doubt one of the intended results of the exercise, is that having spent an hour thinking about this I have gone beyond what I initially imagined I would consider and started thinking in more depth about the team, what holds it together and what its strengths and weaknesses are. What's more I'm curious as to what my team-mates would flag up as their particular concerns.


Anonymous said...

May I also suggest less pints

Owen said...

cool story bro!

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