Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s recent quarrel with Dr Hilaire, the inexperienced CEO of the WICB and the de facto leader of West Indies cricket, is very troubling.
Equally troubling are Chanderpaul’s comments about management of West Indies cricket in general.
Most troubling though are his claims about the pressures that the coaching staff is putting on him during the game and after the game.
“Now we have people here, who are telling me how to bat. And when the game is over, I have to answer questions. I have to answer those questions and when I do, and it’s not suitable, then I have to agree with whatever answers they want before the meeting is over. When you batting there are messages coming to you telling you how to bat, it happens until you get out.”
We should pause here and remember that only seven or eight former West Indies batsmen have a better Test average than Chanderpaul.
Perhaps the administration and the coaching staff can learn something from the wisdom of one of those batsmen, Sir Garfield Sobers. Many years ago I asked him how he got lower order batsmen to stay with him at the wicket in pressure situations and play above themselves at times.
This is what he said: “When I was batting, I was usually in control of the situation and it seemed to motivate the batsman at the other end and give him confidence.
“I never gave many instructions to the batsman. I hardly ever interfered and I never told him off or abused him. I tried to encourage him to use his commonsense and play his own style of game.
“If you tell him off for making a mistake while he is still batting you produce fear or anger and you interfere with his batting and mess up his thinking and motivation. He will then lose confidence and will stiffen up and be afraid to play his normal game. Invariably he will do something stupid and get out. You have to give encouragement. You don’t have to use words all of the time because a smile, a nod or a clap can be just as effective.”
Sir Garfield claimed that pressure usually lifted his game but added, “I found it almost impossible to handle the pressure which came from the administration and from within the team. When there was interference by the administration or petty jealousies and quarrels in the team I used to get very upset. Anything that threatened to disrupt the unity or performance of the team placed me under great pressure because my motivation to do well came from the team.”
Alan Jeans, a very successful football coach with whom I worked in Australia, often gave the following advice to fellow coaches: “My worst performances as a coach occur when I interfere too often and when I try to play the game for the players. The best thing you can do is to remind them about what is required, give them support when they need it and allow them to play their own game. Coaches who think they can stay on the sidelines and play the game for their players are only fooling themselves. Interfering too much and giving too many instructions is a sure way to destroy performance.”
Motivation is one of the most important factors in performance. Anything that lowers it will mess up confidence and performance.
Management in business always regards motivation of staff as vital, but they often do not understand that motivation depends more on the needs and aspirations of the staff than it does on management’s needs. This also applies to coaches. Coaches must not put their needs and aspirations above those of the players that they are trying to motivate.
The same is true of change. The coaches and administrators who are suggesting change are convinced of its importance and benefits, but the players who have to implement that change might not see its value if it does not meet their needs or address their concerns.
When asked about Hilaire’s comments about discipline, motivation and the rebuilding of the team, Chanderpaul said, “ We’ve been doing what we’ve been told to do. The CEO and the executive members of the board made a decision to get rid of the senior players. They will have passed on that information to the chairman of selectors and the coach and let them pressure us in every way they can, which they did.”
Motivation in West Indies cricket is very low. It seems to be coming from the very top down through the ranks in a way that is reminiscent of old Soviet style central committees. We know what happened to people who did not conform to the committee’s dictates. And we also know what happened to that system.
West Indies administrators and coaches must at times be very tough with the players and should always pressure them to lift their performance and fulfill their responsibilities to sponsors. Still, they must do so in a way that preserves motivation, self-confidence and team unity.
This might be difficult because it requires good off-field leadership, something that is presently missing in West Indies cricket. Leadership is action not a position. And the best leadership is self-leadership. Board members and other stakeholders please take note.
There are many good young players in the West Indies. There are also talented older players around. Let us create an administrative atmosphere, a learning environment and a performance climate that will unite these talented players and bring the best out of them.
*Dr Rudi V Webster is a medical doctor and a former cricketer. He did pioneering work in performance enhancement in Australia and worked with many of that country’s best athletes and sports teams.