Will Pybus make a difference?

Dr Rudi Webster

Asks Dr Rudi Webster

MS Dhoni, the former captain of Team India, once told me that the principal difference between the good performer or the good organization and the others is the interval between mistakes. He explained that when a good coach, player or organization makes a mistake they learn from it and hardly ever repeat it, whereas lesser coaches or organizations make mistakes, learn little or nothing from them and keep repeating them at regular intervals. CWI fits into the latter category.

Richard Pybus was recently appointed by CWI as West Indies Head Coach. He is now on his third stint in West Indies cricket. To describe his previous contributions to our cricket as successful and productive would be an enormous stretch. As Director of Cricket, his so-called important and revolutionary initiatives did not bear the expected fruit, and one can argue that the standard of West Indies cricket declined during that time. He clearly did not understand the culture of the West Indian people or the culture and the psyche of the West Indian players. One can also argue that this misunderstanding contributed to an increase in polarization, conflict and insularity, three destructive cultural forces that Worrell and Lloyd eliminated in their quest for world supremacy in cricket.

Wasim Akram the great Pakistani player once told me: “For overseas coaches it is important for them to learn and understand the culture of their players. Otherwise their communication and effectiveness will suffer. If I were coaching a West Indian player I would first find out what West Indian culture was all about.”

Any foreign coach or administrator who views West Indies players from his narrow cultural prism and complains that they are not intelligent enough to become world-class players is in dire need of re-education. The coach would have forgotten that West Indies teams under Worrell and Lloyd dominated world cricket for over 20 years. Some pundits have even claimed that Lloyd’s team was one of the best teams in the history of sports. In today’s rapidly changing world, cultural competence and cultural intelligence are more important to success than IQ or emotional intelligence. Moreover, academic intelligence and cricket intelligence are vey different things. Very few scholars become good cricketers. During Pybus’ tenure as Director of Cricket, he terminated the appointments of two potentially excellent coaches, Barbadian Ottis Gibson, who is now doing a great job with the South African team, and Trinidadian Phil Simmons, who is also doing a fantastic job with Afghanistan, a team that has defeated West Indies in just about every encounter they have had.  According to CWI, Simmons was fired because his cricket culture was different from that which Pybus was trying to transplant to West Indies cricket. This is not surprising, Pybus is English and Simmons is Trinidadian.  What could Gibson and Simmons have achieved for West Indies cricket had Pybus and the leadership of CWI created a cooperative, enabling and learning environment for them?  Chances are their potential would have flourished and the team would have returned to its winning ways After Pybus resigned from his first post he spent time trying to get coaching appointments in England, India, and Bangladesh without any success. To everyone’s surprise he was readmitted to the West Indies fold by CWI for a second post.  The appointment to his third post has been a controversial one and just a few days ago there was the spectacle of two directors of CWI arguing publicly about that selection, a clear reflection of board dysfunction and poor leadership.

Pybus’s appointment is unlikely to be rescinded, so we must accept him as the head coach and wish him success in the upcoming series against England and in this year’s World Cup.  In spite of his failures, do I think he can change the fortunes of the West Indies team? Yes. But this will only happen if he makes significant changes in his attitude, strategies, cultural understanding and cultural competence.  We must remember that failure is an essential part of success. Let’s hope that Pybus has learned from his mistakes and failures and that he will prolong the interval between future mistakes

Self-leadership will be the key to his success. He will not change the players unless he first changes himself.  He must realize that the speed of the leader will be the speed of the pack. He should also contemplate the words of a US general: “The greatest leader in the world could never win a campaign unless he understood the men he had to lead.”

 Pybus should realise that during war an army needs good management and administration to function but it cannot win battles without innovative leadership at every level throughout its ranks. No one has as yet found how to administer people into battle. They must be motivated to fight. The same applies to sport. In cricket the battle is fought with balls and bats but it is the will, spirit and mental strength of the man who leads and the men who follow that take the team to victory.

Pybus is a scientist so it is useful to remind him of some research in microbiology that might come in handy in his quest for success. Thirty thousand stem cells with identical genes were grown in three separate petrie dishes. Although they had the same genes, they developed differently; one set created muscle, another bone and the third nerves. Why did this happen? Each set of cells was grown in a different medium {environment}. It’s the environment stupid – not the genes.

 Another experiment showed that when cells are placed in a medium that is rich in nutrients they open up, migrate towards the nutrients and flourish {growth, development and approaching behaviour}. But when cells are placed in a medium containing toxins they close up and retreat from the toxins (survival, protection and avoidance behaviour}.

 Our players will not grow and develop in the toxic environment that currently exists. It must be replaced with an enabling and learning environment that will promote growth and development.

Finally, Pybus should always remember the words of the famous American coach, Vince Lombardi. He said that coaches who can write down plays and game plans on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. He stressed that the ones who win get into their players, motivate them and enhance self-motivation, self-belief, self-awareness, self-responsibility and self- discipline.

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