Factory of Fear

LS Lowry Returning from Work 1929

Cricket is a competitive occupation.

Cricket as Occupation? England players get paid a lot, along with the attendant opportunities, it’s a life transforming lot.

Competitive? Each player competes against the opposition, against rivals for his place, against himself (his demons).

Fear is the Hobgoblin of cricketers.

Fear can be manufactured by a conflict between Team Orders and instinct, between responsibility and freedom from responsibility. England players are expected to both accept responsibility and play with freedom. These are twin masters who rarely can both be satisfied.

Some call it a style of cricket but it is more than that it is CULTURE built on a foundation of fear.

The Moores/Flower/Moores culture creates a conflict between caution/consolidation and confidence/attack; This conflict creates uncertainty and fear. The England set up? It’s a fear factory.

boyle opening ceremony

Michael Vaughan rightly exposed player fear created by Flower and the backroom for England’s failures in Oz this winter.

Vaughan also nailed the old lie about selectors and captains. The Coach gets HIS team. He is the Boss … not the selectors, not the captain.

Flower and Moores believe in the same culture, use the same Play Book/Team Orders

The ECB did not remove the source of the conflict between Team Orders and Instinct when they replaced Flower with Moores and entrenched Flower at Loughborough.

The ECB first invested in this Culture in 1999, that’s why it had no intention of changing the culture last winter. It finessed the Flower difficulty.

Continuity/loyalty/strong-leader/obedient players is an integral part of the Culture

The shorter the form of the game the more fear debilitates; the more damaging is internal conflict. It is this that has meant England perform relatively better at Test cricket. . Relatively being the operative word.

The India Test Series? It was a fix. The Duke ball and some English-bowler-friendly surfaces papered over the cracks. Just extraordinary they didn’t beat India 4-0.

Case Study of Cultural Change: Lehmann’s arrival at the Oz camp in 2013 transformed the culture in which the team operated; freeing the players from internal conflict and fear.

Lehmann provided clarity of approach, a confidence that those trying playing that way would be supported and a CULTURE that was in tune with how players dream of being able to play.

It will be harder to sustain this culture in the future. It’s very Generation X. Generation Y, the Millennials, don’t do the Moores/Flower/Moores Culture,

Millennials have less fear; their competition is with their opponents, not with themselves,

Millennials learnt at their mother’s knee: they can never fail; they can achieve anything

But even Millennials can be worn down in The Fear Factory.

The players themselves are probably the last people to see how they are being affected adversely by this culture. In the ‘bubble’ it is not obvious at all and Moores and Flower generate loyalty.

Changing the side and issues over captaincy are all second order ones.

While the CULTURE is wrong nothing will be known about the real potential of players qualified to play for or lead England.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Factory of Fear

  1. growltiger

    I would scarcely call a series played with the Duke ball on mildly bouncy wickets a fix, TM. The only one that was prepared to seam wildly was Lord’s, in response to the corpse of a wicket that had produced anti-cricket at Nottingham. And, if you recall, Kumar bowled better than Anderson at Lord’s, while Rahane played a beautifully disciplined and focused innings, despite the sometimes extravagant movement, which was not reproduced in subsequent matches.

    Where you are entirely right is in noting that these three victories did not demonstrate that anything much had been fixed. Flowerism remains discredited, and for much the reasons you outline. Perhaps it is a support of your thesis, that the successful newcomers of the summer are relatively free spirits, owing less than some others to prolonged incubation in the bubble. Moeen Ali showed yesterday that he has fortunately learned nothing about batting from Peter Moores (because, if he had, the others must have forgotten it).

    And a qualification of the thesis, which strikes me as having much bearing on the depth and cumulative nature of the problem, is to be found in “The Hour between Dog and Wolf” by John Coates, which studies the psychopharmacology of traders in bull and bear markets. Bear markets are characterised by a profound slump into “learned helplessness” (a term of art from Coates) in which the nervous system drowns in a cocktail of cortisol and adrenalin over a period of months, even years, with severe long-term consequences for the health of those involved. Living in a regime of fear is exactly the problem of the bear market trader. , The immediate consequence, for cricketers or traders, is inability to seize the moment. This is equally destructive in both cases.

  2. ron

    The consequences of such a ‘fear’ based scenario that you describe is that it will sow the seeds of its own disintegration. The removal/sacking/whatever(still unknown) of Kevin Pietersen is a case in point.The upholding of the ECB position by the vast majority of the British media, whilst not surprising, they are a talentless bunch, is concerning. Firstly, because they are in on the deal and secondly because they should not be ‘in on the deal’.

    So what exactly is going on here? Against a wider political situation where people are afraid to leave jobs in case they don’t get another one, where people are worried about paying the bills, where fear is a ruling element in more and more lives the media are highlighting their true role as supporting the aristocracy. Politicians and in the same way, the ECB don’t have to do much as their dirty work is done for them. But they remain in control and everybody else, citizen or cricket fan is an outsider. There are many many parallels with the emergence of nazism here – cricket is just a game isn’t it????

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