Tag Archives: Duncan Fletcher

Gang Culture: It’s Wrong and Not Just on the West Side

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Team England has a strong sense of identity.  It has been built that way by Andy Flower and by Duncan Fletcher before him.

The expience of the last year and especially of the last 38 excruciating days begs the question as to whether this identity is not just the wrong one, but whether the construction of any such strong group identity can itself be the worst kind of organisation for nurturing the best kind of cricket.

Each year a thousand flowers bloom on the cricket grounds of England. Too few survive the long season of their potential. And too often the best are ground into the dust.

The Gang operating in Cricket England for at least twenty years has been free (and even encouraged) to act this way by weak and ill-judged leadership at the very top of the game.

The booty that the Gang delivered for its community, even though this retrospectively for a fairly short period, further reduced the oversight and intervention of that leadership and gave the gang masters further scope to strengthen their grip.

The continuing power of gangs and cliques rests upon an artificial definition of the group’s culture (Right Stuff) and makes the culture inflexible in the face of change and impenetrable to new or non-compliant talent.

The pretensions of Gang England, like the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story (and therefore the weakness of those charged with oversight and leadership) has been cruelly exposed in the last five weeks since the second day at Brisbane.

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The England Cricket Team and Wags Christmas Party 2013

Here are some details of the consequences.  Readers may wish to add to these:

Ÿ         A leadership that has given unprecedented power to the manager/coach.

Ÿ         A coach whose management style is hierarchical who, unchallenged and unquestioned, has produced a compliant clique or gang culture.

Ÿ         A comfortable, secure, unchallenged ‘in crowd’ and a reduced view of the ‘outside’ talent pool resulting from this clique affirming perspective.

Ÿ         An off-field support team/system that indoctrinates and cossets the ‘chosen’ insiders while excluding, rejecting and distancing outsiders.

Ÿ         An inexperienced and compliant captain who has aided by omission rather than challenged this culture.

Ÿ         Ineffective deputies in virtually all roles on and off the field, preserving the power structure.

Ÿ         Inflexible tactics unable to respond to change.

Ÿ         A string of specific selection issues stemming from this cultural malaise:

Ÿ         Only one spinner that the captain/management trusted but who the regime failed to see was unfit, following surgery.

Ÿ         One talented young spinner recklessly exposed to psychologically damage last summer.

Ÿ         One batsman with psychological issues (known) that the regime believed could be ‘managed’.

Ÿ         One young batsman with technical issues limiting ability to play up the order, exposed to this pressure by the return home of the player above.

Ÿ         One new and untried opening batsman with the Gang’s interpretation of  ‘right stuff’ but with technical issues whose flare has been extinguished.

Ÿ         One tried and tested opening batsman with the ‘wrong stuff’ left at home.

Ÿ         Only one full-time wicket keeper (insider) with serious and evident issues over batting form.

Ÿ         Second (deputy) non-Test standard ‘keeper with serious issues batting against pace and bounce.

Ÿ         One fast bowler with serious form/technical issues (copying with law change).

Ÿ         Two untried, untested fast bowlers.

Ÿ         A major batting asset who consciously and unconsciously is a challenge to the regime’s style and whose true potential is being wasted.

What to do?  It has taken 20 years to produce the present culture of Team England. Reform and renewal is a slow process, but as in West Side Story, the prime problem is not Riff, but Lieutenant Schrank.  It’s City Hall.  It’s the Mayor.

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The Road to Trent Bridge – Beyond the 2000th Test

The Law of Large Numbers operated yesterday as India failed to hold out against England for the prescribed number of overs remaining in the first Test or to score that other large number, 457, needed to win the match.  

As anticipated the expected value of the Champion’s second innings was drawn towards the average of the results in what is now a sample of 2000 similar experiments. 

Their score of 261 runs in 93.3 overs was normally distributed about the mean and gave encouragement to the Central Limit Theorists hunched over their calculators sheltered under the canvas bell tents atop the new Mound Stand.

It was never going to be enough and, with the final Indian wicket falling 28.3 overs before the scheduled end of this Test, England were home and hosed (by the old crone of Clicquot) well before the shadow of the Warner Stand could creep over this famous playing surface on which neither Tendulka nor Laxman have achieved triple figures.

No Game Changer emerged from the pack of overcooked, undercooked, ill and injured Indian players.  They fought the Law, and the Law won.

Lady Luck had not been on their side.  Inserting England on that first morning, they were making progress when Khan (undercooked) pulled up lame.  Then, bad light and rain intervened to shield England from the worst of the batting conditions.

Timorous umpiring and the good sportsmanship of Dravid allowed Pietersen to escape and add a further 150 runs to his score – close to the ultimate statistical difference between the two sides.

Tendulka (overcooked) was beset with a virus that disrupted the settled batting order and the disposition of Gambhir, struck on the elbow while fielding at short leg, caused further disturbance and limitation. 

Sehwag is not here, timing his absence for surgery to the demands of the IPL calendar.

The majority of these set backs will persist as the Indian motor-coach takes the M1 north to Nottingham where the second Test starts with only a three day breather.  The champions are in a difficult place. 

Their captain, who Sunny Gavaskar says has ‘a life-line running up to his armpit’ is exploring every inch of this portent.  The reputation of their motivator-coach, Duncan Fletcher, is balanced precariously on the top of a steep and pinnacled normal distribution.

After a night in their hotel, a balanced, focused and primed England team will make their way north to Trent Bridge where their ‘game’ will be even more suited to the conditions.

“Fait vos jeux.”

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