YOU could see this as a column on cricket, that’s entirely up to you. I am writing on Wednesday before the final 2020 Caribbean Premier League match—and ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which begins next Saturday.
I’d been planning to write about two of our gifted West Indian players, but as I studied them, I figured it would add more context if I threw out some ideas of captaincy from the annals, beforehand.
I’ll start with Learie Constantine who, from 1923, insisted that the West Indies team was as good as any. CLR James would question why, then, the team always lost and made such a poor showing. According to CLR, “What he used to tell me was that the West Indian players were not a team and to become a team they needed a captain who had the respect of the players and was able to get the best out of the team. Not too far from his argument was the sentiment that a good captain would respect all the men.”
Montague Alfred Noble, an Australian all-rounder and cricket captain, wrote a book published in 1926, called, The Game’s The Thing. He shared his concept of leadership, saying that whatever else is learnt, everything depends on something inherent in the captain, what he called the “personal equation”.
“When he possesses that most valuable trait, it goes without saying that the men under his command have great personal respect for him and faith in his judgment. He becomes a tower of strength, a rock to lean upon in adversity. He inspires such confidence that they will work hard, keep ‘on their toes’, and combine to give of their best no matter how long the way or how tired they are. His men respond readily and without effort.
“Captaincy has much greater influence on the fate of a match than is often realised. The side possessing a capable leader has a great advantage,” he wrote.
CLR quoted them in his essay on Frank Worrell in “Cricket: The Great Captains”, published in 1970. As he finally understood what Constantine was saying, he made his own assessment.
“The captain does not only depend on fine players. He makes the best of them and he makes players who are high-class players into men who play above themselves,” he wrote.
Frank Worrell epitomised all these elements. He believed one of the most important attributes was whether a person was a team player—someone prepared to push personal glory aside for the team’s benefit.
He was known to treat players fairly, to look out for their best interests on and off the field, and to never ask of them what he was not prepared to do himself—even when he was not captain. That was how he could get them to find strengths they did not even believe they had. They could not bear to let him down.
This brings me to the present-day element of what I called No 6 last week: leadership. There were six teams in the CPL, and many different leadership styles and qualities were on display.
I am not going to knock anyone. I think the eventual outcomes were sufficiently revealing. You could see which teams seemed like actual units. It’s manifested in the body language. From players on the bench showing genuine pleasure in a fine stroke, to fielders applauding good bowling and fielding efforts. Commiserations here, a supporting arm on a disappointed shoulder there; they tell the story.
Out of the many who have led, two have been outstanding representations of the qualities acclaimed above: Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard.
Sammy, I believe, embodied those attributes from the time he was first made captain of the West Indies team. I remember writing that although people were questioning whether his cricketing ability was sufficient for him to lead the team, he brought the kind of nurturing and mentoring ability the players needed. Many people still believe the captain should be the one who’s achieved the best statistics in the game. In their post-cricket lives, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara would probably now agree this is not the case.
Sammy can be justifiably proud of developing the team’s confidence enough that they jumped from being perpetually at the bottom to a truly competitive force in this year’s tournament.
Pollard has always exuded a powerful aura. He has developed into a truly magnificent leader over the years, finding the elusive balance between a disciplined approach and being a nurturing figure. His fitness and form have been more consistent, and he has a more measured approach to his batting. The players evidently respect him and Dwayne Bravo as strategic thinkers, experienced hands and capable mentors. Bravo is undoubtedly a fine leader as well.
The three carry those qualities and the West Indies team could only benefit from their kind of leadership.
I am resuming writing after the final CPL match, which supported the premise that good leadership (including the coaches) creates and enables conditions for a team to deliver beyond expectations.
Both the St Lucia Zouks and the Trinbago Knight Riders played fiercely competitive and intelligent cricket. While the TKR completed a magnificent run of victories, the Zouks have every reason to be proud of their performance. To the CPL organisers, I say thank you for letting the show go on.