Wednesday, 6 June 2012

National leadership of honesty and integrity is still possible...


My example is the England cricket coach, Andy Flower.

(Ex-blogger Mencius Moldbug used in his heyday to rhapsodise over the leadership qualities of some bloke apparently called Steve Jobs - but here I use a more relevant and recognisable example...)

I have regarded Andy Flower as the best example of a real leader since I wrote this post on my obscure cricket blog:

But this was confirmed yesterday by this talk Flower gave to journalists:


Either way, it is a measure of the sensitivity of the subject that Flower, the England coach, took it upon himself to come and speak to a section of the media and provide an in-depth explanation of the rationale behind the decision.

Flower, while at pains not to be seen to criticise officials at the ECB who have agreed the playing schedule, called the itinerary "incredibly heavy". He also reminded supporters that rotation was not a new thing - Andrew Strauss, the captain, was rested from a tour of Bangladesh in 2010 - and, while Flower declined to answer any questions about Kevin Pietersen, he did admit that the prospect of players choosing to specialise was an "ongoing issue with the schedules that we're being asked to undertake".

"We came into this series with one goal and that was to win the series," Flower said. "We've achieved that goal so our priorities do shift. I'm not intending to demean the importance of this Test but, since we won the series already, our priority on the Test front does now shift to the South Africa series. There is also a slight shift to the West Indies one-day series because that series stands at 0-0. We haven't won that series, we've won this one. Part of our decision making is based around those reasons.

"If it had been 1-1 going into this third Test, Jimmy would have played. He is not badly injured and he could play this Test if we wanted him to. But it's 2-0 and we've won the series already.

"The second point I would make is that the days of us playing our players until they are either worn down significantly, or snap physically or mentally, are over. We think it our responsibility to manage things better than that. It is our duty to make decisions in their interests and the interests of the team. In the past we tended to play the fast bowlers until they were either bowling so poorly we had to leave them out, or they break down. And that doesn't make sense to us.

"Would you enter your prize horse in every race through the year? You wouldn't. You would target the races you want to win. We've won this race already. Would you play your most valuable pitcher in every single game in a baseball season? No you wouldn't. In fact, you don't even see them play full games. You pull them out of games because physically it makes sense to do so. Eventually their shoulder or their elbow would go. Does Wayne Rooney play every game for Manchester United? No, he doesn't because he would break down if he tried to do so. The schedule is really busy, and that's why we have to make these decisions. It would be ridiculous if we expected our fast bowlers to play in every single game.

"These types of decisions are made for the good of the team but also they will extend the careers of bowlers like Anderson. Actually I think it's beneficial to him. I understand the reasons why he is disappointed but it is beneficial to him in the long run.

"My third point is we have to try to and grow our pool of fast bowlers that are available to the England side. You would have seen through the Ashes in Australia that it wasn't the same attack that was used throughout that series. When we left Steven Finn out and when Stuart Broad was injured, the guys who came in excelled. Over the next couple of years the schedule is incredibly heavy. It is not only going to be Anderson, Broad and Bresnan who are going to be our bowlers over the next couple of years. It would be crazy and naive to think so. We are going to use other fast bowlers. It is part of growing our pool of fast bowlers.

"My fourth point is the possible replacement or replacements we use in this Test match are fine bowlers in their own right who have already performed very successfully in Test matches in England. I don't see it as devaluing this Test, I see it as a really exciting opportunity for us and for those watching the game. We are making this decision in the best interests of English cricket. We are not trying to overcomplicate, or devalue the game in any way. I perfectly understand why James Anderson is disappointed to be left out and I would be surprised if he felt any different. He is hungry to play. That's okay.

"He will be using this time to get his body in as good order as possible. He is carrying a couple of niggles and this is a chance to get rid of them. If it was 1-1 he would be playing, but it's not. We make decisions that make us stronger in the medium to long-term. Those are the reasons why we've made those decisions. Some people will disagree with them and that's fair enough. But I hope you can understand the logic behind those decisions."

Flower admitted that Broad may also be left out of the final XI "for similar reasons" and dismissed the idea that either he or Anderson would be selected with a view to improving their Test statistics. "We don't select people to get their Test tally up," Flower said. "We make decisions in the best interests of English cricket."

(The above transcript is taken from


I find it hard to express how impressed I was with this press conference, except that it is altogether typical of the man.

Here is a man who can make and take responsibility for tough decisions (he says 'we' speaking on behalf of the selectors); explaining why the decision is the best overall, while fully acknowledging that there are downsides, and not everybody will be happy about it.


But is it easier to have integrity and honesty in cricket than in national politics or as head of a corporation or a university?

I doubt it. Most cricket administrators are just as devious and weasel-like as the worst bureaucrats, the pressures are much the same - it is the quality of the individual which differs.

As far as I know, Flower has always been like that - and it is a major reason why he is the best national coach (just as he, somehow, made himself the best Test Match batsman in the world, statistically, despite the twin major disadvantages of 1. Playing for the worst team in the world, and 2. Keeping wicket).

(He was also personally and professionally courageous such as to make (with Henry Olonga - just the two of them) a public protest against the Mugabe regime during the cricket world cup in Zimbabwe - as a white Rhodesian, this was especially risky for Flower).


Respect and admiration.

Q: What could such a man in such a position do for a nation?

A: Almost anything.



The Crow said...

I had to smile at this.
It reminded me of a phenomenon my wife and I often notice: When we meet somebody who can actually do their job, respond civilly, or be just plain 'normal', we tend to over-react and consider them wonderful.
In an age where almost everybody you meet is bloody awful, and/or utterly incompetent, it's all too easy to respond in an over-the-top fashion to what, not that long ago, would have been completely unremarkable behaviour.

bgc said...

I suppose it is more important than ever to note honesty and integrity in public life during times when it is near-vanishingly rare; even though to do so seems like over-reaction.

Tschafer said...

As an American, I had never heard of this gentleman, but he seems like a fine man and a fine coach, the type of person we could use more of in this world. Thanks for letting me know - maybe we're not as alone as we think...