Paceman Tony Palladino's latest column for The Cricketer Magazine, as he takes a look at what team chemistry really means and how it could have a major say in the Ashes.
The Ashes is soon to begin and once again England are favourites to emerge victorious. Why is this? Well, not only have they won the last three series but, to put it more bluntly, they are the best team. From top to bottom England are superior and deserve to be odds-on with the bookies. The Aussies may as well give up now because obviously England will win. The best team always wins, doesn't it?
Luckily for us in sport this is not always the case. It would be boring to watch a sporting event knowing that the favourite was going to win. So why does the underdog sometimes pull through and win? I believe some answers can be found by looking at a team’s chemistry and how they gel together.
Australia need to be cohesive this winter if they are going to beat England. By this I mean they need to play together, work together and fight together. All pulling in the same direction. No egos or prima donnas. If they can do this and harness the home crowd’s buzz, it might give them that extra push they need to cause an upset.
It's well documented that Shane Watson is not well liked by Michael Clarke but is always going to play when fit because he is one of Australia’s best players. As a coach should you drop your best players if you think it's the best for the team? It’s a decision I'm sure many Premier League football managers have to go through week in and week out.
Andy Flower decided to drop Kevin Pietersen when it was discovered KP was sending texts to South African players about his England team-mates. These texts were not complimentary in nature. Cheslea manager Jose Mourinho recently dropped one of his best players, Eden Hazard, for an important Champions League fixture because the player missed training. The issue was dealt with swiftly and everyone moved on. England have since forgiven Pietersen and “reintegrated” him into the squad. Of course they have – he averages 50!
When the Australians were hammering England on a regular basis between 1989-2004 they always had star players and good team chemistry. The captains during that golden period were men who commanded respect and were great leaders: Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. They not only had quality players under them like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Mark Waugh but they made sure the dressing room was harmonious and the team came first no matter what. Having a group of superstars doesn’t always guarantee success. If they don’t gel together then they won’t produce in tough situations.
This summer Northamptonshire were arguably the team of the season. They recruited some good cricketers in the winter like Steven Crook, Trent Copeland and Matt Spriegel and set themselves the target of promotion in the County Championship and a strong push for a one-day trophy.
During pre-season their cead coach David Ripley wrote the names of the Derbyshire team that had won Division Two in 2012 – including myself – and said to his players "Is that team better than us?". Some might think that he was doing our efforts the previous season a disservice but on the contrary he was trying to prove to his players that you don't need to be a Test-ground county or have stacks of cash to achieve success. Winning is built from within. It's fair to say they had a season to remember.
The baseball team I’ve followed since 2003 is Boston Red Sox. In the winter of 2011/12 they made a series of big signings and trades to acquire an all-star team. Contracts upwards of $75 million were handed out to several players. A high-priced but controversial manager was signed and the Red Sox were made favorities to win the World Series. What followed was their worst season in recent memory. They finished rock bottom and by September had traded all of the big-name players they had signed for young prospects. The team didn’t work.
Individuals played for themselves and end-of-season bonuses. Infighting was rife, and cliques were formed within the dressing room. This was not a winning formula. The very next season a quiet-yet-respected manager who had worked with the players previously was hired. He didn’t berate the players or abuse them in the press like his predecessor, he backed them and managed the different personalities on an individual basis. This is such a key thing to do in my opinion. The best coaches and players I’ve played under work with each player individually which in turn enhances the team. Not every player can be fired up with harsh words and challenges. Some players need to be handled with a calmer approach.
Anyway, the Red Sox signed a few lower-price but still talented players who had good reputations as team-mates. They all pulled together under the new manager whom they respected and wanted to play for and ended the season as World Series champions.
Tony Palladino has played 90 first-class matches for Derbyshire and Essex and will be writing a column every Thursday for The Cricketer. Read the full article here: http://tinyurl.com/mygepqs
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