In the big picture, history will judge every captain by what his team achieved. Thats all it comes down to. Results . Wins. Losses. Stats. And how the players under him progressed.
In terms of pure results, Steve Waugh’s numbers are pretty straightforward.
Captained Australia in 57 Tests. Won 41. Lost 10. Drew 6. Thats a 71.92 win %age.
This is not about that.
This is about why captaincy is not about just the skill at your disposal. Its about harnessing skills. And a captain can be the reason a team is better – or worse – than the sum of the skill of its parts.
And its not always about the high profile players.
Steve Waugh took over from Mark Taylor. It was considered a bit of a surprise. (There were three people in contention. The two Waughs and Shane Warne.)
On Friday, 12 February 1999, the news broke. Stephen Rodger Waugh had become Australia’s 40th Test captain.
For all that, the ascension of Steve Waugh to captaincy was not greeted with universal acclaim. Ian Chappell, for example, came right out on Sydney radio station Triple M.
“I think he’s been a selfish cricketer,’ Chappell declared. ‘I’ve always felt that the things you do as a player leading up to getting the captaincy do have an effect on how players perceive you. I’ve had the feeling that a selfish player when he becomes captain … gets a little less out of his players than someone who is not selfish.”
From Steve Waugh’s “Out Of My Comfort Zone” – about his debut address as captain of Australia…
….the thought of my initial address to the team caused me a degree of anxiety, because I wanted to make an impact but at the same time, did not want to reinvent the wheel. I have found that there are normal nerves and another version that is twice as hard to overcome, and turn up when you are talking to guys you know intimately. When I tried to begin, I thought the words were going to be shut off by a voice box that was tightening and a swarming invasion of hot cells that threatened to invade my system. In the end, my debut address would have been marked as passable rather than historic; I was glad it was over and the preparation for battle could begin.
I hoped that the team understood the style of captaincy I believed I could deliver. I wanted to see everyone playing their natural game and being in control of their own situation. I wanted each player to think of himself as the vice-captain, always proactive in his thinking, able to offer advice and, above all, willing to take responsibility for his actions. I envisaged us becoming the benchmark team, which opponents would describe as ‘the most professional, most relentless and toughest we’ve ever come across.’ Pride in one’s own performance and enjoyment of each other’s success would lead to character and bonding, and we had to be aware of the two dangers that could threaten our plans. Complacency and poor preperation had been directly to blame for our losses in recent times such as at the Oval in 1997 (complacency) and in Delhi a year before that (poor preperation), and we knew they needed to be ticked off our checklist before each game. I wanted to take people on a journey and get them to believe in themselves and in what we were trying to achieve. Empowerment by infusing self-belief was the mantra I wanted to create.
I knew that all successful sides have a certain ‘X factor’ that comes from each individual giving more than he takes. We believed we could foster that set of beliefs in the individuals who made up the team, something I explained in one on one meetings with each of the players. As a follow-up, I gave each of the guys a single page that outlined my expectations for that player.
This is what I gave Jason Gillespie.
- Enjoy the tour – your time is now.
- Work with Pigeon [Mcgrath] to establish the best opening bowling combination in world cricket.
- Controlled aggression couples with ‘in the corridor’ bowling will take wickets in the Carribean.
- Use your intimidating body language on the West Indian batsmen – they don’t like it.
- Set the tone for their tail-end batsmen – go for their jugular – get personal, then get them out !
- Work on your batting – you are capable of getting good partnerships going, which could be very important.
- Keep the intensity up at fielding practice – take it into the game with you.
- Be the man – make it your series.
No hype, no analysis, no stereotype. Just a pursuit of results.
Resource in question – Jason Gillespie since has a Test double century and is now amongst the top 25 wicket taking bowlers of all time. A couple of 50s are added in there. Not too many of us will forget a 26 in 2004-05 either.
Earlier post on Steve Waugh here .