The right cricket captain

2011-06-08 00:00

ALONG with having the best coach and players, South Africa's cricket hopes for the next five to 10 years depend more on having the right captain than anything else, so important is the value of great leadership.

Tony Greig wasn't the world's best all-rounder when he was made England's captain, but he had what it took as a successful leader. Nelson Mandela may not have been the best politician in the African National Congress in 1994, but he was the reconciling leader we most needed.

What does cricketing leadership require if the Proteas are to play to their huge potential? Obviously it needs somebody who is a good enough player to be in the team. It is the next three qualities that distinguish a true cricketing leader: superior tactical intelligence, moral depth and multiplier leadership skills.

You don't have to be a genius to understand that a top-class leader in any field must be a really good thinker. In cricket — Test cricket above all — this is probably more important than in any other sport because the game takes so much longer and is exceptionally intricate. Intelligent tactics are worth their weight in gold here. There was a classic example involving Kiwi batsman Jesse Ryder in the recent ICC World Cup in India, whose long innings against us was a key factor in our defeat that day and an early trip home.

With his sluggish footwork, the way to get Ryder out was to exploit his lack of footwork by bringing on the spinner who turns the ball most. For the Proteas that meant leg-spinner Imran Tahir, but skipper Graeme Smith relied on other bowlers, and Ryder made an invaluable 83. Not so the Sri Lankans, as I recall, who gave the ball very quickly to Muttiah Muralitharan, and Ryder was soon out.

Moral integrity means more than not taking bribes to fix matches. It means earning and keeping the deep respect and commitment of team-mates, which is vital for a winning captain. What earns such respect? Top-class skills with bat, ball and in fielding earn a player admiration, but it is qualities like integrity, a strong sense of duty, honesty, moral courage, fairness of mind and action, and deep concern for your players, both individually and as a team, that win and keep their respect. Those qualities raise their game.

What gives a captain moral integrity? It can be deep religious conviction like that of Hashim Amla, but religious faith is not always a mark of ethical strength. A surer sign of it is a record of active concern for others, generosity of spirit and, of course, honesty and devotion to duty.

The third requirement for sustained success in a captain is what business leadership writer Christine Leonardi calls multiplier ability. Writing in the magazine Entrepreneur in February 2011, she distinguishes between multipliers, who create value in those they lead, and diminishers, who reduce it. This can happen in many ways but one is especially relevant to a team sport like cricket. As Leonardi puts it, multipliers tend "to develop, explore, challenge, consult and support people", whereas diminishers tend "to use, blame, tell, dictate and control people".

Since the heart of ethics is active concern for the good of those you affect, it is clear that multiplier leadership will be at its best in a captain of real moral integrity. Without that kind of intelligent, ethically responsible leadership, the Proteas could well continue to falter at the fina­l hurdle.

• Professor Martin Prozesky is an independent ethics consultant and writer operating under the banner of Compass Ethics, and a long-term cricket lover.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.