It is a quick turnaround from the red ball Test format of the Gabba to the pink ball, the second form of Test cricket, in Adelaide.

If this is not a difficult task in itself, England’s plans for the series have been dealt a serious blow in Brisbane.

Add a touch of Bairstow bar-room humour using a headbutt rather than a handshake as a greeting card, and England have some head banging, or at least scratching to do before Day 1 at the SACA.

The obvious conclusions to draw from the 1st Test are –

  1. England’s game strategy of wearing down the three-pronged Australian attack so that runs could be plundered as the match wore on, were undone firstly by Lyon who took partnership breaking wickets at the right time.
  2. Secondly, by a timid batting display in the second innings, and especially by their tail
  3. Thirdly by Alastair Cook who is pivotal to the English game plan of subduing Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins such that they are physically spent by the time they reach Perth.
  4. The Smith factor has already shown that he will lead from the front with the bat, and control the game for as long as he remains at the crease
  5. The Smith-Cummins partnership brought the English 1st innings total to account, albeit at one time it seemed 50 to 100 runs short; then tantalisingly, looked like it may produce a lead of 50 to 100; to be finally shown to be inadequate
  6. This partnership highlighted the huge reliance England have on Anderson and Broad as Woakes, Ball and Ali could not produce enough consistency of spells to support the old opening pair.

To support these conclusions, I have included the analysis from Krishna Tunga: http://allthatcricket.com/496-gabba/

Draw your own conclusions from the numbers but look carefully at these sections which demonstrate the key differences between the teams, resulting in the thumping that England received in the First Test:

  • Role play
  • Scoring rates of the first 3 batting partnerships (and behind the data sits another telling statistic of balls faced per wicket lost by the top 6 batters in each team)
  • Bowlers spells, and bowling partnerships show the penetration achieved by Australia’s 4 bowlers compared with Root desperately searching beyond Anderson & Broad for breakthroughs

So the answer for them is simple – reverse all these points above to put themselves in a position to win the Second Test.

However, for them the key is not to go into any panic mode, or reactive selections, or change in game plans. Trevor Bayliss, the coach is smart enough to realise this.

It is whether he can convince the disbelievers, of which there will be a couple inside the English dressing rooms right now who have severe doubts of their individual and collective abilities to combat Australia.

England will also need to ride the luck that the change of conditions that the second form of Test cricket brings due to the pink ball, new biorhythms and night cricket.

If England go 2-0 down after Adelaide, the whitewash ghosts of 2006-07 and 2013-14 will haunt the English team – more than the occasional headbutt!

 

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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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Rekindle’s success on Tuesday 7th November was not just a success for all the parties that had something to do with the historic win, but it was also a celebration of how an event, something special in the Australian calendar, can bring most people of the nation together.

On Saturday at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we were again brought to a literal standstill as we remembered those who died for this country in World War 1, and who have in previous and subsequent wars, given their lives to protect ours.

These events in our nation’s history speak to different human emotions – one of joy, one of horrific tragedy.

But both speak to similar outcomes where most Australians come together in a collaborative, supportive manner, connecting and communicating closely.

 

Such collaborative behaviour seems uncommon these days in a world that on the one hand appears to be increasingly connected through the technologies of Facebook, Google and IoT. On the other hand, people are becoming more disconnected, isolated in their own communities due to the increasingly uneven distribution of wealth; through the activities of political and religious extremists; and through the busy-ness of everyday life which demands more self-attention than loving thy neighbour.

Even in the “do-good” organisations such as not-for-profits and charities, these groups seem more intent on building separate bureaucracies rather than collaborate with others formed on similar missions and goals. Look at the number of organisations which are all trying to help find and fund ways to support people with cancer and their immediate families.

My work over the last couple of weeks with Boggabri Coal, Queensland Public Service Commission, Glencore, Moreton Bay Regional Development Association, and Victorian Leaders have in their different ways concerned themselves with how to nurture, develop and grow more collaboration between people and agencies, as well as collaborative work practices.

 

Respected demographer Bernard Salt recently made the case for coming up with a sexy new moniker or brand for South-East Queensland and unifying all the “fiefdoms” that comprise the region into a more powerful collaborative aggregate. While each region or LGA would retain its current identity, eg Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Darling Downs, etc, they would all sit under the umbrella brand, much the same as Silicon Valley does for its constituents.

Silicon Valley is a nickname for the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay area. The “valley” in its name refers to the Santa Clara Valley in Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose and surrounding cities and towns (Palo Alto, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Saratoga and others) where the region has been traditionally centered. The region has expanded to include the southern half of the peninsula of San Mateo County, and southern portions of the East Bay in Almeda County.

 

In the world of sport this makes complete sense too.

While there are superstars that make up the engines of successful teams; or the coaches who conduct the vision, the game plans, and the game day plays, those that are the most successful, that endure over time, and that are recognised as examples of peak performance, are those where the energies, the skills, the minds, the brands are harnessed into one collaborative unit.

 

So take time to reflect on your week.

Look at the signals that are all around us, every day, about collaboration verses ‘going it alone’.

How do you want to live your life?

What do you want for your neighbourhood, your community, your country?

Rekindle the actions and behaviours that lead to a collaborative future environment.

Your choice…

 

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Conventions in our working lives, our social interactions, family structures, political and religious norms are constantly under challenge and change.

One of these conventions is to do with age, which says that number of years on this earth correlates to knowledge, experience and sometimes, but not always, wisdom.

 

So the older we are, the more likely we will have greater knowledge, experience and wisdom than a younger person.

Convention also seems to dictate that at a certain age relative to each industry and sector, generally around what is considered to be the ‘retirement age’, this knowledge, experience and wisdom is no longer useful as it has passed its ‘use-by’ date.

 

Of course we have met, worked, played sport with people who were young but seemed to have that ‘old head on young shoulders’. As well as, there were older persons who still thought they were “Peter Pan” or “Tinkerbell”, and had never grown up.

But as a consequence, there can never be a fixed rule or unwritten policy that skews favour on age alone.

 

That is why I was interested in the comments of Steve Smith recently regarding a selection decision of Ed Cowan verses Daniel Hughes. If selection was based on results only, one would have little doubt that Ed Cowan’s numbers were superior. If selection was based on experience to perform at the level of the competition, Ed Cowan’s name would still be in front. If the selection was based on CQ, cultural quotient or ‘fit’ within the group, I cannot offer comment – but at the same time, those involved in selection have not either. So one can assume this is not the reason for Daniel Hughes’ selection.

 

The article suggested ‘potential’ was the reason for Daniel being elevated into the starting XI. While every player has ‘potential’, as very few, if any, have reached their ‘potential’, the younger the player the more ‘potential’ they are perceived to have.

So the conclusion that most people would reach is that age was the determinant of this selection.

 

I have seen this worrying trend in cricket and many sports in Australia over the past decade or more. It cannot be written into policy, as this would possibly lead to a legal challenge based on discrimination.

 

However there is plenty of evidence that clearly demonstrates younger players receive preference to older such as –

  • Those who make up academies;
  • Representative teams composition is biased to younger players;
  • Younger aged teams placed into higher level competitions;
  • Club competition structures and schedules work against older players remaining in the game, or playing at the level they should.

 

Why is this an issue? – Surely we want to give our younger athletes more exposure to higher-level competition to constantly test their skills and ‘potential’? And at the same time, there needs to be succession planning for the future.

 

The answer is yes – we do want to test them at higher levels, provided they get the learning experiences that will improve their current knowledge, experience and possibly wisdom or maturity, and give them the opportunity to take over from incumbents when the time is right.

 

But how are these young athletes exposed to in-game coaching and learning, if they are only playing with and against players of their own age?

My experience as a player and a coach over 40 years showed me that the best development of young players was when they are surrounded by older players – either those with whom they were playing, or those that they were playing against. Country and regional athletes and cricketers are good examples of development as they play their sport in and amongst adults for much of their younger years.

 

Australian batting for instance has forsaken the experience of Bailey, Klinger, Voges, Ferguson, White, Cowan, Henriques to name a few of recent times, in the hunt for ‘potential’ young cricketers.

 

Age should not be the barrier to playing cricket or being selected in competitions.

Simply because you are older does not mean you can no longer perform. And conversely, just because you are younger with ‘potential’, does not mean you will be successful.

 

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I was amused and dismayed by the reported story from Steve Smith’s  book launch on the process of his appointment as captain following injury to Michael Clark.

It was reported that a conversation between Board member Mark Taylor, and vice-captain Brad Haddin at a bar post Adelaide Test match was where a decision was made.

 

According to the report, Mark Taylor told them both that he would make a few calls to the Board and get matters cleared. The following morning Chairman of selectors, Rod Marsh, called to say the elevation of Steve Smith to the captaincy had been approved.

Admittedly there was only some 4 days to the next Test in Brisbane, and the position of captain of Australia needs Board sanctioning – but if what is reported to occur, did happen, Mark Taylor’s intervention highlights the need for a selection panel to be a relic of the past.

I have suggested on many occasions that I believe selectors are no longer a requirement in Australian cricket.

 

For cricket to change as David Peever was outlining with respect to the ACA-CA contract negotiations dispute, then processes and systems must change.

When selectors were first ‘invented’, there were no coaches, no talent identification systems, no technologies that allow for capturing of all data and vision of all players, no support systems such as Academies, sports science staff and so on.

Professional sport has moved on.

 

Professional sport, in most codes, places the Head coach or Manager as the person responsible and accountable for team results.

If there are selectors, they perform more scouting roles, and report directly or indirectly to the Head Coach.

 

These Head coach positions rely very heavily on the input of the coaching staff in their system to make the best calls on players. There are few better examples than the ALL BLACKS system where all coaches are employed by the national body and work closely together to ensure the best management of athletes, as well as putting the best possible teams on the park.

With the NZRU, this approach flows down through second tier provincial competitions, to clubs and schools.

 

If Cricket Australia seeks to return to world cricket dominance again, then in a number of key areas, it cannot expect to keep doing the same things and get different results.

The current archaic selection system, utilising a band of selectors is one of those key areas.

 

Respecting tradition, paying homage to the past is important to the culture and performance of any organisation.

But clinging to relics only anchors the business or the organisation in the past, and does not allow it to move into the future with direction and confidence.

 

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What has become very evident in the first 3 ODI’s of the Women’s Ashes series is that there are very skilful athletes on show who are executing simple but well thought through plans.

 

Powerful batting is normally not associated with women’s cricket, but even despite the loss of Meg Lanning, there is a healthy dash of boundary finding as well from both teams.

 

However, there will always be a different power game in women’s cricket due to the ball being smaller and therefore lighter; the bat speed that women can generate will be less; and the pace that the quicker bowlers can deliver limits the pace off the bat.

 

Nonetheless, all teams adjust to this lack of power and pace with other skills and tactics.

 

The use of spin or slower bowling forces batters to hit the ball if they want to pierce the field.

Consequently, teams have worked assiduously on their fielding athleticism to back up the bowling strategy.

 

Wicketkeepers are more likely to spend little time back from the stumps, preferring to be hovering over the stumps, no matter who is bowling. This keeping skill is reminiscent of male keepers from the 30’s through to 70’s who might make as many stumpings in an innings as take catches.

 

Allthatcricket have examined what the current stats (see tables below) are telling us about the series and the tactics. Unfortunately, the women’s series is not being covered very comprehensively from a broadcast and a statistical viewpoint, but we can draw some conclusions from the first 2 ODI games –

  • When batting the highest scoring shot rate (i.e. number of balls scored from compared to the total number of balls bowled) shows England and Australia similar on this indicator at 48.1% and 46.9% respectively
  • When batting and looking at the ‘dash of power’ where one team finds more boundaries? Australia have set the benchmark so far with 50 x 4’s and 9 x 6’s compared with England 31 x 4’s and 3 x 6’s with 6 times consecutive boundaries, twice as many as England
  • For the bowling teams we are seeking the reverse of these numbers, and Australia has been striking regularly taking a wicket at after 29.2 balls while England have only been striking every 42.6 balls. England were averaging 40.2 in the recent Women’s World Cup!
  • Australia’s dominance in the first 2 ODI games from the bowling crease is evidenced through –
    • Taking 18 wickets – verses 12 by England
    • Bowling 28 times, where consecutive overs were 4 runs or under – verses England 20
    • Bowling 53 overs of 4 or less runs in the 2 games – verses England 46
    • Delivering 30 overs that had 6 or more taken from them of which there were 6 that went for 10 or more – verses England 38 and 14
  • An interesting insight to the tactics of the first 2 ODI’s is that Australia spinners have bowled 54.33% of the total overs while England have used their spinners for 28.5%
  • Unfortunately, it is not possible to view fielding data (as we cannot see dropped catches, misfields, saved boundaries, etc.), to highlight the athleticism in the field from both teams. A gauge at the end of the series may be the number of runouts per innings achieved by both teams.

 

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