WOMENS’ ASHES BURNING, WHILE THE MENS’ COMES ALIGHT?

The womens’ Ashes have burned, while the mens’ is about to come alight!

Contrasting styles, formats and controversies could best sum up the dual series.

The womens’ Ashes are being played on cricket grounds allowing spectators to enjoy the skills on offer viewing from grassy mounds and hills.

The game is almost played at a ‘pace’ that was the male version prior to the advent of ODI cricket.

This is in no way to disparage the contest between both women’s national teams of Australia and England. It is a comment that reflects upon the ‘good old days’ of cricket.

The games were played with uncomplicated skill. There was tough competition, but any ill-feeling between the teams (if it existed at all) was not seen or heard. The media attention was paid to the cricket and the players’ delivery of performance – not any side issues or controversies. And the spectatorship was relaxed, calm and enthused.

For a more detailed analysis of the women’s Ashes prior to the three T20 matches, take a look at http://allthatcricket.com/494-ashes-womens-test-cricket/

 

In stark contrast, the men’s Ashes have been set alight by the selection of the Australian team.

England have hardly been sighted or at least followed in their build-up – partly due to whom they have been playing and where; but mainly due to the microscope that has been placed on the Australian team, and those who have conjured up the starting XII, the selectors.

I have already posted my views about a selection panel being a relic of the past, so I will confine my commentary to what is, not what should be.

So to the real contrast between both Ashes campaigns…

 

PRODUCING PEAK PERFORMANCE: THE 4 C’s

My experience has shown me that to produce peak performance or at least, results which are trending to peak performance, then the 4 C’s are very important –

  • Consistency
  • Continuity
  • Combinations and
  • Communication
Consistency

This principle refers to consistency of message delivered through consistency of selection policy. For those who are selected into teams, then it is essential that they satisfy on the majority of counts that he or she meets key criteria of selection. More importantly, those that miss selection must clearly understand why they do not satisfy the selection criteria and what needs to be done to correct the specific criteria lacking.

 

Continuity

Wherever possible maintain continuity of athletes within a team or squad. In so doing, great rapport and team culture can be developed within the group. A team can move to maturity and self-regulation if there is not ‘turnstile selection’, players and staff coming and going. In teams where positions in the team are uncertain, most people protect themselves first, and team values are of little relevance. There is poor leadership culture as trust has been significantly diminished.

Since the South African series in November 2016, the Australian team has played 4 series, 12 Tests with 23 players, and now an additional 2 new faces at the beginning of this Ashes series. They lost 2 series, won one, drew one, with a Test win/loss record of 6/5.

In 11 series prior since Dec 2014, 34 Tests Australia used 24 players of which 6 retired; winning 5 series losing 2; and Test win/loss ratio of 12/6

Unless injury or retirement is forced upon the selection process, should any change to a team selection not indicate the selection process was wrong in the first place? Who carries the burden – player or selector or both?

 

Combinations

The longer people play together the more they understand each other’s game, and therefore the more help/coaching they can provide. Opening batsmen need a good combination to weather opening attacks through running between wickets, rotating strike for one another when a partner is having trouble, working as a pair to mentally combat the opposition. This can work throughout the order.

Other combinations that are critical are keeper to bowlers, and especially spin bowlers; 1st slip and keeper as well as slips cordon; fast bowling unit; and so on.

To keep interfering with combinations being established, reduces the effectiveness of team play and fosters individualism, poor team culture, and ultimately inconsistent to poor results.

 

Communication

If the selection policy is clear, then it can be easily communicated and understood by those within the group and outside the group. There are very few people that are ever unhappy about being selected. So where communication can play a significant role is to clearly communicate to those who are on the fringes of selection what they must do to give themselves best chances of selection. Equally, these communications must also be with coaches of the fringe dwellers so that they are aware of what is required.

Communication is often compromised by too many voices or channels that are part of the messages to be delivered. Reducing the clutter of people and noise, providing clearly understood criteria and sticking to policy all help the communication.

There will be on occasions, situations which fall outside the ‘guidelines’ such as the ‘cultural fit’ or the character of a person within the group; or the fast tracking of a person into or back into the team environment. These will be the occasional case and should be treated as such, and communicated accordingly.

However, like all forecasting and predictions the proof is in the eating.

 

HOW WILL AUSTRALIA WIN THE ASHES?

I think Australia will prove too strong on home soil for England.

England will rely on the savvy of Australian coach, Trevor Bayliss; a swinging ball new and old, delivered by Anderson with support acts Broad & Woakes; a top order that can deal with the menace of Australia’s quicks and the guile of Lyon to allow Joe Root and his well performed middle order of recent series, albeit lacking their most potent weapon Ben Stokes, to score the necessary amount of runs.

Australia on the other hand go into the series with the best pace attack assembled for many years – brilliantly supported by one of the world’s best spinners in Nathan Lyon. However, the Achilles heal to this strategy is that the quicks need rest throughout games and over the extent of the series. There is no allrounder like Shane Watson to shoulder 10-15 overs a game or an innings due to quality of players available, and the worry Australia has with its top and middle order batting. If Warner, Bancroft, Khawaja can combat the swinging ball effectively, then Australia’s batting should thrive and allow Australia to take the Ashes comfortably.

 

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