Leadership Lessons from a washed-out cricket semi-final

Leadership lessons are everywhere around us every day wherever we meet and relate with other people. I play park cricket with a a lower division in the Nepean District Association in NSW. It is a great way to relax on a Saturday afternoon with a good bunch of guys. I can test my skill and my strength and enjoy focusing on something that is in itself a nonsense but has many benefits to physical and emotional health. I enjoy the strategy of the game and have been a cricket captain of many sides, but the past few years I have simply enjoyed playing. However, our captain pulled a muscle in the final game of the season and he asked me to fill in as captain for the semi-final. We came third in the regular competition and were due to face the second placed team in the two day semi-final. I accepted the challenge.

The story of the game:

We won the toss and asked them to bat. Having played them a few times we knew their batters strengths and weaknesses pretty well and set fields accordingly. We managed to bowl to our plan, hold our catches and have them all out for 111. They only used 38 of their 60 overs so we had time on the first day to start our innings. We had the pressure of a poor weather forecast for the following day so we started our innings aiming for quick runs. Unfortunately our opener cramped up and had to retire hurt after 2 overs, and then we lost a couple of quick wickets and had to consolidate. At the end of the days play we were reasonably well placed at 4 for 64. We only needed 48 runs to win from 35 overs remaining, and we had seen off their best bowler.

Unfortunately, the rain did come on the Sunday. We were proactive and purchased tarpaulins to cover the pitch and the bowlers run ups. This way when there was a break in the rain we could ensure it would be safe to play. We had not reckoned on the opposition captain who was unwilling to step onto the field. A draw meant they went through to the Grand Final. We were ahead in the game and he knew if he let the game begin, we would probably win. Cricket is a game of many rules, and one of them is that it must be fully stopped raining before the game can start. Once on the field, the batting team decides if they want to go off for rain. Very light spitting rain was falling when the game was due to start. He refused to go on. After an hour, it did rain heavier and a few small puddles formed in the outfield. When the rain stopped we took off the covers and swept the pitch, and the small puddles mostly drained away. Our opposition captain still refused to take the field. He wanted to wait until there were no puddles at all. We pressured him as much as we could. He stalled again and again. The younger lads in our team were very frustrated at the opposition captain’s unsportsmanlike behaviour. Our team were all out on the field practising while their team sat under the shelter. As we did not have an official umpire we had no way to force their hand. Finally, after an hour when we could have played, the rain bucketed down, and we knew our day, and our season was over.

With rain bucketing down, and less than an hour left to play, I gathered the guys and told them I was going to tell the opposition captain we would now call off the game. They reluctantly agreed. I also told them that I was going to shake the captain’s hand and wish them well in the grand final, and that I wanted everyone of them to do the same to the members of the opposition team. My rationale was that we had enjoyed a great season together, and I was not going to allow this man’s behaviour to cause me to finish my season on a sour note. We did not get the result we wanted. We did not get the chance to win fair and square. I said, “I would like to think if the roles were reversed that we would have allowed the game to go ahead.” To us playing the game is the important thing, not winning by any means. I was proud of them, as they all agreed, and filed by the opposition team shaking hands to finish the game.

5 Leadership Lessons Learned

  1. A good plan, well communicated and well executed will put you in a position to win –  we had a team meeting on the Saturday morning before the game and discussed exactly how we were going to approach the game, and each batter. I invited input from all players and talked it through for an hour or so. When it came to bowling to them, we followed our plans exactly. And wickets followed. This put us in a winning position.
  2. You have to adapt to circumstances beyond your control – We could not predict our batting opener getting cramps. This upset our plans a bit, We lost a couple of cheap wickets, and so had to consolidate rather than going for quick runs. The threatened weather issues did become an issue on the second day and we had to make adjustments. We were ready if we had got the chance to play.
  3. The best teams are willing to do whatever it takes to give their team an opportunity to win – Once we saw the rain coming on the Sunday morning, there were phone calls, and suggestions flying around our Whats-app group. It was easy to organise with so many willing people, and pretty soon tarpaulins were on the pitch and run-ups. Others brought brooms and mops and we were ready to make it work if we got the chance. There was a great sense of working together which was actually a great sign of team health.
  4. Rules can be interpreted in different ways depending on your self-interest – the other team were technically within the rules even though they definitely did not operate within the spirit of the rules. Once the rain had stopped completely, and the skies had become much lighter, we took the tarps off the pitch and swept it off, and set up our stumps. I went over to the opposition captain and asked if they were interested to play some cricket. He once again wanted to wait until the grass was not wet, so it would be safer for his team fielding. For us, it was perfectly fine to play. For them, it was not. And, there was nothing more we could do.
  5. No-one and nothing has the power to control your attitude – this was a powerful leadership lessons. We did not allow the opposition to ruin our attitude. We finished the day feeling good and knowing we had done everything we could to win that game. We had a character building day. Their team got the chance to play the grand final, but our team worked together and gained stronger relationships and a great sense of well being and enjoyment. This experience bonded us together more than ever. We are already talking about next year.

What leadership lessons can you learn from what is going on around you today?

INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

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