The influence of the captain in cricket is more profound than in the majority of sports.
What makes a great captain? Are the skills required similar to all forms of leadership and who are examples of players who have performed the role with great success?
What Makes a Great Captain?
The captain is the leader of the team. In many sports including the American football, gold, tennis and casino Singapore, their remit can be to don an armband, call heads or tails and fist pump in lieu of real motivation. In cricket, tactical acumen, leadership skills and psychological insight play their part in building a winning team.
Earlier New Zealand captain and middle order batsmen Martin Crowe said ‘one of the strong tenants of captaincy is the requirement to articulate thought and ideas’.
Mike Brearley, who was a batsman of limited talent but an exceptional captain, wrote in his book The Art of Captaincy that it is imperative to understand the nature of the individual within the structure of the team. Cricket is a game of individual performance, therefore to obtain the best result for the team each person should be given the confidence to trust in their ability to perform.
Under Brearley’s captaincy, this was best illustrated in the 1981 Ashes Test at Headingley. Following on, the home side were 135 –7 when Ian Botham scored a thrilling century. England amassed 356 to leave Australia what appeared a modest 130 for victory.
At 56-1, an Australian victory seemed inevitable. Brearley responded in a manner common to the exceptional leader, he thought counter intuitively. Bob Willis, England’s fastest bowler, was persuaded to bowl into the wind and ended with figures of 8-43 as the visitors fell nineteen runs short.
Both Botham, whom Brearley had replaced as captain, and Willis commented that Brearley’s captaincy was instrumental in instilling confidence and purpose, to which they responded magnificently.
The Skills of Leadership
Humility may not be initially seen as an advantage in leadership, but a lack of hubris in a captain can increase their ability to influence team members.
Successful sides are often said to contain ‘a team of leaders’. Brearley feels accepting the views and ideas of others is a hallmark of strong leadership, from the novice to the senior pro, innovation and insight should not be seen as the sole prerogative of the captain. Cricket is a subtle game and the perspective of team members can prove invaluable to the decision making process.
The Great Cricket Captains
Douglas Jardine: Captained the MCC on possibly the most infamous cricket tour of all time, to Australia in 1928/9 where he employed the controversial leg theory attack.
Later to become known as bodyline, under instruction from Jardine the opening bowlers Larwood and Voce bowled persistently short to a predominantly leg side field. The Australian batsmen had to either risk injury or, by playing, be likely to be caught.
An example of innovative but ruthless captaincy, England won four of the five test series. The practice was subsequently outlawed by the then governing body of cricket, the MCC.
Allan Border: Played in more Tests, more Tests as captain, more consecutive Tests and took more catches than any other player.
He took over from Kim Hughes in 1984 at a low point in Australian cricket and transformed its fortunes in his ten-year reign.
An uncompromising leader, he instilled a resolute confidence in his players and laid foundations for the all conquering team of recent times.
Mike Brearley: Perhaps the most intellectual of captains as his post-career occupation as a psychoanalyst testifies.
He brought intelligence and subtlety to the position of England captain, which saw him lead the side to victory in seventeen of his thirty one matches in charge.
Although fortunate to have a talent such as Ian Botham and Bob Willis available to him, he afforded them a freedom that enabled that talent to flourish.
The Art of Captaincy
It is a truth to say that a team with good players makes the captain’s job easier. However, the title of Brearley’s book encompasses the view that there is an art to captaincy. A leader with the ability to understand and coax the most from individuals under his charge will increase the likelihood of consistent and continuing success.
The art of Cricket Captaincy
To become a successful cricket captain, there are many factors you will need to take into account. No matter the ability, experience or motivation level of your team, certain aspects of the ‘art of captaincy’ remain the same. Read on for some advice on how to make sure you get the best out of your side.
Setting A Field
Many successful captains, including former Ashes-winning England skipper Michael Vaughan, have used innovative and effective field settings to marshall their side to great successes. Vaughan’s habit of placing fielders in the positions the opposition least expected was one of his most obvious traits as a captain, and the number of wickets picked up by his England side thanks to his knowledge of how to set a field was incalculable.
Here you can find tips on how to ensure you set the best field for your particular game plan.
Picking Your Bowlers
The art of choosing who to bowl and when is made to look easy by captains such as Australia’s Ricky Ponting, who once had the luxury of both all-time great seamer Glenn McGrath and all-time great spinner Shane Warne as regular members of his bowling attack; in truth, however, knowing your bowlers is one of the most important aspects of captaincy.
Here you can discover how to harness your knowledge of your bowlers and get the best out of their abilities, while ensuring that each of them contributes to a more successful overall team effort.
Motivating Your Players
Legendary Australian captain Steve Waugh had a habit of using the literary workings of the legendary Chinese warlord Sun Tzu to motivate his team; that team would go on to become one of the most consistently successful cricket teams of all time, winning 15 consecutive Test matches in the early 2000s.
Here you can find out about how to maintain your players’ motivation, no matter what their circumstances. Part of the beauty of sport, and cricket, in particular, is that people play it for so many different reasons. Everyone has their own expectations of what they will get out of the game, and their own reasons for participation, and you can learn how to manage these expectations effectively and improve your team’s performance.