Attitudinal Reform

By Dr Rudi Webster

We all live under the same sky but we don’t see the same horizon. If reality were objective we would all have a uniform view, but because it is subjective we see different things and think and behave differently.

Some people cannot see beyond a certain view or distance and their myopic view causes major problems in their perception, thinking, and decision-making. This is most dangerous during periods of conflict.

A person with a limited view might look at a triangle and describe it as a line. Another person with a wider view might describe it as an angle. And a third person with a full view might describe it as a triangle. When these people compare observations they often cannot believe that they are talking about the same thing. Many conflicts arise and persist because opponents can only see the line or the angle, not the triangle.

In the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the West Indies team played poorly and the disappointed head coach publicly and repeatedly castigated the senior players for the team’s failure. The senior players then responded publicly with their own criticism of the coach and the conflict intensified. The head coach demanded an apology from Chris Gayle for his caustic comments and when Gayle, the most feared batsman in the world, refused to do so, he was dropped from the team.  The effect on team members was demoralizing and was reflected in the way the players performed.

A year later, Caribbean prime ministers intervened and persuaded the warring parties to bury their differences and come together for the good of West Indies cricket. However, the hostile and non-learning environment persisted.

Destructive criticism is cruel and personal and usually results in resentment and poor teamwork. Psychologist R.A. Barron claims that the best way to prevent or repair this damage is with an apology especially when the apology contains a credible explanation and an assurance that the accuser did not mean to be cruel, personal or insulting. If he fails do this, the accused might retaliate by venting his feelings to a third party – the press or teammates – thereby intensifying anger and hostility.

What can sporting bodies, administrators and coaches learn from Barron’s research? If a coach or administrator uses destructive criticism, he should try to repair the damage by apologising to the player as soon as possible, telling him he did not intend to demean, humiliate or insult him, even if it looked that way. The longer the apology is delayed the worse things become and the player might then use that time to launch his own destructive criticism of the coach or administrator. Hostility usually persists until both parties apologise to each other.

M.S. Dhoni a former cricket captain of Team India once told me that the main difference between great players and the others, or great sporting bodies and the others is the interval between mistakes. He claims that great players/sporting bodies make mistakes, learn from them and hardly ever repeat them. The lesser players/sporting bodies make mistakes, learn little from them, and keep repeating them at regular intervals.

The West Indies Cricket Board belonged to the latter category because it kept repeating the same mistakes with its key players; the latest being the bitter conflict between the board and Darren Bravo, its best batsman, during the last nine months.

I am pleased to see that some attitudinal reform is taking place. I am also happy to see that Cricket West Indies is beginning to take a broader and less myopic view of West Indies cricket, and that it is hopefully becoming more aware of the importance of cricket to the people of the Caribbean. I commend president Cameron for following the suggestions of psychologist Barron. This is part of his apology to Darren Bravo:

“… In the course of the interview I stated that Darren Bravo had previously been on an ‘A’ contract, which I have since been advised is not correct. I apologise for the misstatement, and wish to assure Mr. Bravo that there was no insult or offence intended towards him. I would hope to see his game continue to progress and mature at both regional and international level.”

I also commend Darren Bravo for his apology to the president of Cricket West Indies:

“… As I have always tried to uphold the best traditions of West Indies cricket and its players, I now therefore wish to withdraw the comment made on my twitter account and apologise to the president of CWI and to all WINDIES fans”

Let’s pray that attitudinal reform will continue and that it will be a first step in reversing the fortunes of the senior West Indies team. And let’s hope that Cricket West Indies will build a harmonious, enabling and learning environment in which players can learn, grow and perform to the best of their ability.

Let’s also hope that spite no longer shows its ugly head. A Buddhist priest in Sri Lanka once told me, “Anger and spite are most dangerous. They destroy you, the person next to you, and the place where you live. When dislike or hatred arises in our minds, we must mindfully drop it or start communicating.”

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