By David Hinchcliffe, Director of Coaching, PitchVision Academy
What makes a world-class cricketing character, even at club level?
Michael Vaughan – 2005 Ashes winning captain – was famous for saying everyone in the team was a captain. Great leadership doesn’t just come from the top, it comes from both the appointed ones (captain, vice-captain, coach) and everyone else. There is no rule that restricts being a great character to having a title.
So, let’s look in more detail at how you can be a better “bloke” in your team.
Recognise every achievement (no matter how small)
It’s easy to say “well batted” to the guy who just got a hundred. What’s harder is taking the time to acknowledge the smaller wins.
This is harder because you must know the goals of everyone in the team. Imagine you know a young player is desperate to join senior nets. They work hard enough to come along as a net bowler halfway through the season and bowl well to first team players.
You – as a top bloke – take a moment at the end of the session to recognise that player’s small success. They are not first team material yet, but they are working hard and will be motivated by your words.
This is one example. There are ten thousand more;
Improved fielding, a good bowling spell that tied players down allowing wickets to fall at the other end, always the first to arrive on match day…
You might not think it does much, but the person will be delighted they have been noticed. Some people prefer a fanfare announcement, others are more satisfied with a quick quiet word when no one else is around.
Pick your moment and speak honestly about what you have seen.
Set the example (even in the face of criticism)
We can’t all be star players.
We can all be stars at setting the example to others.
This isn’t about scoring runs and taking wickets; it’s about doing the things you want others to follow. For example, when one player in my club dropped a couple of catches early in the season, he was determined to sort the issue out. Not only did he come to practice and take a bunch of catches, but we had extra sessions where he worked so hard the bruises on his hands never seemed to go away. After one game, he was so furious he dropped a catch that we spent 20 minutes on the outfield. I was hitting balls up, he was catching them.
Again, and again.
This was in the face of some gentle ribbing from team-mates. He didn’t care, he just kept on catching.
He didn’t drop another catch all season.
If you want everyone in the team to train twice a week, then be the first one there three times a week.
If you want the team to have better body language on the field, then walk tall and speak with confidence.
If you think smart appearance equals smarter cricket, be the most dapper player on the team.
Sometimes this can be tough and you feel like you are doing more than anyone else. Don’t despair. People will follow because that’s what people do.
Speak your mind (tactfully and honestly)
A good bloke can speak up and be clear and effective. Honesty cuts through all politics, hedging and double speak. However, sometimes “speaking your mind” is seen as “criticising”. It can be that, but here it’s not because speaking your mind is done with tact and humility.
This takes courage because it’s easy to get wrong. You need to know the character of who you are talking to and how they react. Some people prefer hard words to get motivated while others are sensitive to anything other than blind praise. You need to reflect this.
Aim to cut through arguments and get to a practical solution. Instead of saying “you batsmen are letting us down by not scoring enough runs”, say “we all know the team are not scoring enough runs, how can we work towards improving that area?”
Consider how you say things, but never be afraid to say them.
In the long run, it reduces frustrations and stops cliques being formed. In the same vein, be prepared to listen to others’ plans and criticisms.
You will find some people with no tact at all who seem to be blaming you personally. Pick out the practical advice and ignore the delivery and you can use this negativity to improve. You will also find people who are naturally good at delivering honest feedback with tact. Listen to how they operate and learn from them.
Perform (and help others perform)
It’s obvious to say that someone needs to meet the minimum standard of the team to play. But this isn’t always the high-profile things, it’s knowing your role and doing it well.
That said, you can’t under-perform and stay in the side just because people like you. But I’ll tell you something; if you are a crucial part of the team because of your character, you get a lot more leeway.
Put the team first (ahead of yourself)
It’s often said that the team comes before the individual. People say they would rather get a duck and win than get a hundred and lose. Seeing as we have no control over those things, the real question is, “what does putting the team first really mean?”
There are some practical things you can do.
• Support your team when they are batting by sitting and watching the game, cheering on good play.
• Be enthusiastic in the warm up, it helps bond you as a unit.
• Work at being the best fielder you can be to support the bowlers.
• Work at being great as a non-striker, you can pick up a lot of nabbed singles for your partner.
• Never criticise during a match and be careful about how you criticise generally. It’s good to be honest and better to do it with tact and respect.
• Know exactly what everyone’s job is in the team and support them in it.
• Enjoy the success of others more than you hate your own failures. Help people who are failing to get out of the slump.
None of these things require supreme cricketing skills. You can do them if you are the best player or just hanging onto your place. Either way, the team will improve and you will be a crucial part of it.