“Creating a Culture of Leadership for West Indies Captains!” by Colin Croft

20th September 2015

Patrolling the Boundary  – a view from the outfield

Judging from noises emanating from media, insular cricketing personnel and representative cricket boards too, West Indies’ present cricket captaincy came down to being nearly a mano-y-mano affair, at least an imaginary one, featuring Barbados’ young fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder and Trinidad & Tobago’s seasoned wicket-keeper batsman Denesh Ramdin.

Even in cyberspace that would be a no-contest but that supposition of one versus the other is also far from the truth. This recent captaincy appointment of Holder to lead WI to Sri Lanka and onwards is all about efficiency, complete effort, hopeful and anticipated success, and most importantly, the future of what could positively transpire in WI teams over the next decade or so.

Paraphrasing actor Michael Douglas in the film ‘The American President’ describing attitude, fight and determination needed when acquiring American citizenship, these are also required to be good present WI ODI, Tests and T-20s captains. You have to want it bad but it is not at all easy!

As Douglas suggested about citizens accepting another US citizen’s right to burn USA’s national flag – ‘Star Spangled Banner’ – which is legal in USA, accepting appointments for WI captaincy could also present conundrums of emotions, especially in still conflicting Caribbean.

In Delta Airlines’ ‘Delta Sky’ September 2015 magazine, which I recently read on a cricketing trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, two highly revered, supremely successful, fully legendary university coaches are featured – Ohio State University’s football/grid-iron coach Urban Meyer and Duke University’s (North Carolina) basketball coach Mike ‘Coach K’ Krzyzewski.

For US collegiate sports followers, Ohio State University’s teams are called ‘Buckeyes’ while teams representing Duke University are called ‘Blue Devils’.

Having won their third and fifth national championships last season respectively, Coach Meyer and Coach K gave their takes on how they go about creating champions, setting personal priorities, creating a collaborative team culture, even determining fair compensation for student-athletes, the latter not yet condoned, accepted or legal in USA’s higher education system.

But does all of that not sound familiar? Are appointed WI captains not also supposed to create cultures that highlight the attributes as these two stellar coaches have earmarked as their bulwark, main pieces of foundation, for success?

Has WI had any of those over the last few years of continuous bickering and yearning? Nah!

Coach K: “I do not micromanage as much, but I also made sure that I got accustomed to having people say ‘no’ when that was the right answer, instead of being pressured into saying ‘yes’.”

“What you do not change are values you try to teach – trust, courage, loyalty, honesty. You look for players who would identify with those values, but as a leader, you also try to communicate those values by how you teach them, according to the cultures players are accustomed to.”

Coach Meyer: “If what you do in your position as leader does not help your family, your subordinates and especially your present players, then you do not have to do it, regardless of what other people might think.”

“My expectations of my student-athletes have not changed but what I have cultivated is that all of the necessary resources must be out there for my players to make educated, quality decisions. That is where I spend my most important and productive time these days.”

When I read that article, my blood ran cold. In 1976/7, when Barbados’ Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner and yours truly, Guyana’s Colin Croft, became No. 160 and No. 159 WI international cricketers respectively, then WI captain Clive Lloyd, almost word for paraphrased word, said all of what Coach Meyer and Coach K repeated in 2015. Totally uncanny!

“Each player in this team”, intoned Lloyd before our 1st Test at Kensington Oval against Pakistan, “is a captain onto yourself. I can only guide you but you must know yourself and understand the culture of WI cricket and its teams. All of us are not from the same countries and are from different cultures. Not only must we play well, but most importantly, be at our best and win!”

Then WI vice-captain Deryck Murray handily supported. “Crofty and Bird, you are joining a team that has become accustomed to winning and may be setting records as we go along, who knows. You do not have any time to settle in. Either your produce or you can be gone, as we in this room, now including you two, must work not just for good cricket but for total excellence!”

After those two speeches, and while trembling, we knew that we had to produce. We did. But do you get the impression from recent WI teams that such situations still exist. Again “Nah!”

Instead, WI’s recent cricket has become so bogged down in individual personalities and insularities that all we do now is squabble about ‘our’ individual country’s players, not the collective whole of prioritizing the team’s culture for better efforts, hopefully huge successes too.

Jason Holder may not be universal choice for WI captaincy for the future, but if he can cultivate some of Coach Meyers’, Coach K’s, Lloyd’s and Murray’s philosophies, he will succeed! Enjoy!!

C.E.H. Croft

Colin Everton Hunte Croft was one of the fast-bowling giants of West Indies’ glorious period of world dominance. In his international career between 1977-82 he was part of a devastating 4-man pace attack alongside fellow greats Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner (with a young Malcolm Marshall as first reserve). In 27 Tests he took 125 wickets at 23.30 with a best of 8-29 v Pakistan in only his 2nd Test Match. He was a member of West Indies’ World Cup winning XI of 1979, and took the match-clinching wicket, spreading the stumps of England’s Mike Hendrick, to finish with figures of 3-42. In his post playing days ‘Crofty’ has been a teacher, commercial pilot, coach and a shrewd and honest cricket analyst, writer, broadcaster, commentator and summariser – gaining respect internationally for his insightful and forthright opinions and, not least, his splendid wit. Roland Butcher’s Hook is delighted to have Colin as a contributor.

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