A letter to the management of the 2019 South African cricket team

Like all South Africans, I have been witnessing the painful processes that all of the SA cricket teams have gone through at World Cup tournaments. I have previously written about possible solutions to the problem being encountered, but I am not too sure if any of the information has been received by any of the players or teams. I have also considered that there may be a rejection of some of my ideas.

The intention of my letter is not to cause more pain to you, but to offer a new way of looking at the past problems, as well as to move into the future with a clear vision.

Lighting up the sky
Lighting up the sky

As you know, the team choked again at the 2015 cricket World Cup tournament. While this may sound harsh, I believe that the first step to any revival is to truthfully acknowledge the problem. It is not emotionally weak to do so. It takes a lot of courage to look at a painful problem, especially if it has caused much embarrassment.

In the final overs of the semi-final match against New Zealand, the intensity of the situation got too much for the players. Two easy run-out opportunities were missed due to the phenomenon of ‘rushing’ (this reflects a desperate, panicked and impatient mind-set). Further, two collisions occurred on the field between players going for the same catch, which reflects restricted peripheral awareness (this occurs when the mind gets restricted due to the stress in competition).

Over the years, the teams going to the World Cup tournaments have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This repeated pattern has created the historical problem of choking, that you now need to address. Each team that had previously gone to the World Cup tournament had the opportunity to resolve this issue, but failed. I believe that their failure was embedded in a way of thinking, speaking and acting that inadvertently created the very problem that they were trying to resolve.

Please don’t despair about this. You have an opportunity to resolve this issue. But this will require a new philosophy and paradigm of thinking, resulting in a new way of being on and off the cricket field.

As you know, all of the teams leaving the shores have had excellent camaraderie and team spirit. They have also been totally committed on the field and have always given 100% effort. Further, I do not feel that their cricket skills have been an issue. So this is all good. However, the fundamental emotional and mental issues that all of the previous teams have struggled with are on a completely different level.

I know that the teams going to the World Cups have had sports psychologists, mental conditioning coaches, motivational gurus and expert consultants to assist them with the mental aspects of the tournament. But I don’t know what is discussed, said or applied to the teams by these professionals. However, confidential information about strategies and/or techniques that these professionals suggest tend to find themselves in the media. I am not too sure why, especially since this should be a private, confidential process. For example, through a press article I read that in this World Cup the idea of ‘show no weakness’ was very much part of the mental drive in the team. Despite this mantra, however, I was rather surprised to see how the players reacted on the field after the loss against New Zealand. It became apparent to me that in failure and disappointment the ability of the players to show ‘no weakness’ was not possible and instead a child-like emotional reaction and to some extent ‘self-pity’ was revealed to the world. I am sure that you as the 2019 captain will have to deal with these images when the press again confronts you with the harsh reality of failures and choking at the World Cup. In other words, the 2015 failure has added another layer of emotional pain that you will have to deal with.

If you do decide to bring in a mental consultant for your preparation, be sensitive to the confidential nature of the process. Do not go public with any intervention that may be decided on since this reduces the effectiveness of the work that you may be doing on the mental level.

I mentioned that a new paradigm of thinking and acting was necessary if you wanted to win the World Cup. This paradigm is based in quantum physics, co-evolved reality creation, energy and informational flow, process-orientated thinking and zen-like attitudes. While this may sound rather complex and difficult to comprehend, it is not.

You will need to take the team through a process of change and maturation, in which you heal past pain, and learn from past mistakes and approach the challenge of competition in a more co-operative way. While this may sound strange, I would like you to consider this. Every team at the World Cup is playing for their country and wants to bring the trophy home. Every team tries its best to win. Every team feels the pain of losing. Your team is no different. Every opponent your team faces will be challenging you to produce your best, just like you will be challenging them to be at their best. That is the nature of competition.

As part of the transformation in your team, you will need to shift the sense of entitlement and intense desperation in the team to prove its worth to the world. Be mindful of not promising to bring the Cup home, before any match is played. There is no need to tell everyone how important it is for the nation that you win, or that you need to make the nation proud by winning. The nation will always be proud of you if you deal with victory and loss in a humble and honourable way, after you have given 100% commitment on the day of competition. It is not necessary to speak about this, actions are far more powerful. Let the nation see for themselves.

It is important for you to consider how one creates realities by what you say in public. Think of life as being a co-operative energy flow between what you think and say and the way that life responds to you. I also believe that you have half a pen to write your life story, life has the other half. This is very much the same when it comes to competing against another team, batsmen or bowlers. The opposition are also influencing the process. As a case in point, I was impressed with the way the New Zealand batsmen chased down the target of 298 in only 43 overs, batting second. They were remarkably calm and emotionally balanced. They were also part of the story of the match. They had half their pen to make a mark in their history to go through to the finals.

You need to be able to assess your abilities in a realistic way. Most South African teams tend to over-exaggerate their abilities and under-estimate the task at hand. For example, in November last year, the one-day team were beaten 4-1 by Australia. In the round robin pool matches of the world cup tournament, the team lost to India and Pakistan. In the semi-final, they lost to New Zealand by 4 wickets. On reflection, we lost to teams that are considered ‘cricket playing nations’. The team may have built up the expectation of being able to win the World Cup by putting too much emphasis on their emphatic, one-sided, results against teams such as UAE, Ireland, Zimbabwe and a disinterested West Indies.

Every cricketer, coach, support staff and administrators (past and present) is wrapped up in the problem that you are trying to resolve. Given this, very little new information can be generated internally. That’s the nature of the situation that you find yourself in.

As part of the new way of thinking and the new transformational process you could consider some of the following ideas:

  • Bring in poets, philosophers, artists and ordinary every-day people with inspirational stories to address your team on an ongoing basis as part of a development programme. Group discussions and individual reflective writing needs to follow. This will help to expand your creativity, heighten your sensitivity and take you out of the restrictive world of cricket.
  • Each member of your team needs to do a soft, internal exercise which will help balance the energy system. Doing a martial art, tai chi, yoga, meditation or pilates will assist in developing an inner balance for your players.
  • The team needs to go through an ongoing group therapy process to heal past pain, and to develop an internal dynamic that resolves issues effectively. Linked to this, is the idea that each player develops more self-awareness, and becomes a leader of self.
  • Each player needs to commit to a hobby and/or field of study and this needs to be monitored by you. This process will help broaden the interests of a player outside of the world of cricket.
  • Every player needs to do some charity work. This should be ongoing and not be done as a once-off promotional stunt, with media attention. This will help ground your players emotionally since they will see a bigger picture of life.

The beautiful butterfly emerges after a remarkable transformational process.

So I am sure you have one significant question in your mind at the moment? So after developing the team as described above, will the team be guaranteed to win? Unfortunately, no. I hope that this does not scare you. The process of human transformation goes beyond winning. A new narrative is required for your team and it should not be judged on a result in a tournament. Instead, the purpose of the transformation is to develop a more grounded, emotionally balanced energetic system in each of your players.

I am reminded of the story of the 2 samurai warriors who were pitted against each by their respective emperors to fight to the death to see which empire would be victorious so as to annex the other. There was a lot at stake. Before the fight each warrior went into solitary meditation for about a week. To meditate on what? The story goes that they meditated on their death. They made peace with dying. They did this since the worry of death during the fight would have distracted their focus which would paradoxically, result in their death. They both knew that only one would remain, yet there was a serenity in both warriors as they faced each other.

As in previous teams, you will have a great group of players who will be proud to represent their country. The South African spirit is resilient. The challenge is to combine this with a culture of learning that facilitates a quantum leap in your team.

All the best for your upcoming challenge in 2019.


3 thoughts on “A letter to the management of the 2019 South African cricket team

  1. If such a broader philosophy was embraced by sporting administrators/coaches, I reckon the culture would transform and the quality of player and human being emerging from ‘the system’ would be an inspiration to others. also, a more balanced approach would enhance the possibility of ‘life after sport’ being an easy transition to make for sportspeople. Brilliant writing, and thinking as ever Ken… Cheers Burnsie

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