Mike Brearley
Mike Brearley

Mike Brearley was not a talented Test cricketer but he could extract the best out of the most stubborn and opinionated and vastly talented team mates as captain in his England Team.He was well bred, intelligent, calm and a shrewd tactician, to cap it all he was a physcoanalyst, Cambridge educated. He captained England in 31 Test Matches won 17 and lost 4, this was in the late seventies and early eighties, his strike rate of winning matches was magnificent.

Reminiscing into Sri Lanka cricket, from the days of Mahadevan Sathasivam, C.I.Gunasekera,Michael Thissera the talent cascaded down to Aravinda De Silva,Arjuna Ranatunga and then onto Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Marvan Atapattu, however as the bowling was concerned apart from Muttiaha Muralidaran, Chaminda Vaas and lately Lasith Malinga the flow of class and talent ebbed.

In 1996 we won the ICC Cricket World Cup due to Arjuna Ranatunga being at the helm and also due to superb teamwork by a wonderfully talented bunch of players.

Teamwork is vital for success and Mike Brearley in his book,”MIKE BREARELY ON FORM” discussed the making of a team. By the way this book was gifted to me by an ex Anandian Cricket Captain(1963), Nihal De Silva who too is a Psychiatrist practising in Los-Angeles, USA.

Brearley related, like individuals, teams can be on or off form. Phases of immaturity also undermine team form, clear cut examples are Niroshan Dickwella(harshly treated by the selectors), Kusal Mendis (softly treated by selectors),Tisara Perera(his pathetic performance ignored by the selectors).The above mentioned performed as if they were over confident. Brearley emphasised that teams need to practise hard to build a technique, and to make sequence of play habitual, almost automatic.At the same time technique is not enough: they also need passion, flair and resilience, shrewdness, as a group, they have to be able to seize a moment or dig in.

Brearley is also of the view that teams consistently monitor themselves, not only individually but collectively.

They should also learn from experience and face reality.

Brearley noted that some of the most difficult and distressing situations for teams occur when a talented but tactless individual come into conflict with a descent team, perhaps being over tolerant to authority structure.Readers will recognise in this description the outlines of the intrigues and conflicts that resulted in the eviction of Kevin Pieterson from the England team in 2014.

Pieterson was born and brought up in South Africa, was the most imposing batsman in his time.He played 104 Test Matches and scored 23 centuries at an average of 47.29.He had the capacity to change the course of matches. He had admirable team qualities, offering himself as a supportive mentor to promising young players. His hard work on his fitness and his own game were excellent models. In personal relation, however, he was liable to put his foot in it, and rub up those in authority the wrong way.

In 2009 Pieterson was relieved of the captaincy after only 3 Tests in charge.Though he brought about his own downfall, he was hurt and bitter as a result of this demotion. No doubt he became as a result more difficult to manage and lead, adds Brearley.For most of the remainder of his England career the director of coaching was Andy Flower and the captain was Andrew Strauss- the man who had replaced Pieterson as the captain.Brearley’s impression of the leadership of the two Andrews was that they were strongly committed both to the whole team and to the individuals.They tried hard to keep Petierson on board.It is after all one of the main jobs of the leaders to make the best of the talent available, and there were no other batsmen to match the talent of his.

Brearley mentioned that no single, indubitable narrative can be established for the ultimate breakdown between Pieterson and those in charge of the England team. Pieterson did some egregious and damaging things, he sent his opponents in south Africa, texts that were uncomplimentary to players in the England team,he of course denied that he exposed the technical weaknesses of the English players.

Brearley has often being asked how he would have tackled Pieterson.He seemed to him to be gauche rather than malicious. He got the impression that Pieterson would say things for effect, without much thinking.Brearley note that his team talks and reflection would have struck him as pathetic, and annoyed him and added that he may have got under his skin, with what would have been a drip- drip effect of negativity and a subtle undermining of authority. When questioned about how he would react to Pietersons antics he replied that much would have depended on how the behaviour of the rest of the team. 

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