Sports Psychology: Australia Cricket – Leadership!

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Cricket PsychologyOnce upon a time it would have been unthinkable. That the Australian cricket team, the standard bearers of everything Australian, would appoint a South African as Head Coach. It’s a high risk strategy and one that is looking flawed as we speak. For why would the self-reliant Australians need an injection of South African values? Have they become too soft and need a hard dose of external reality?

This is an Australian team that has just suffered two heavy defeats in India. Defeats that caused the Head Coach Mickey Arthur, to ask his players to come up with solutions to their cricket problems. Technical; Mental and Team.

Four of his players, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja all failed to come up with presentations and have been subsequently disciplined and dropped.

It sounds as if this once all conquering cricket nation are in disarray!

It’s easy to imagine what went through the players minds when they were asked to come up with solutions to the teams under-performance issues. ‘Why should we do the coach’s job for him?’ And it’s easy to see why they would think that.

On the one hand Arthur’s strategy is designed to involve the players in collectively working through the issues. Take ownership of the teams issues, as a way of increasing responsibility, and thus improving outcomes.

On the other hand, it suggests that he doesn’t know how to solve the problems himself. That his analysis is not critical enough to get to the heart of the under-performance.

And that the players recognise this and are refusing to support him. Plus the fact that he is South African, which means that it is not an ‘Aussies all in it together against the world’ mentality!

When players respect the management and you have a tight team unit, then players will do what is asked of them, because they fundamentally trust the direction the leadership is taking them.

But this ‘refusal to participate’ attitude, suggests a deeper problem at play in this Australian outfit. An US v Them culture has developed, with the management cast as The Them, the enemy.

Mickey Arthur has taken the disciplinary route as a means to cast the negative attitude out of the group. And yes it could work, by sending out a message that only full commitment to the cause is acceptable. Improving attitudes will lead to improving disciplines and application out in the middle. That’s the South African applying hard core values to an Australian problem. And he will feeel empowered to do so.

But the fundamental issue remains. Which is why are the Australian’s being so comprehensively beaten by India? If the coach doesn’t know the answer to this problem, then he is in serious trouble.