Coach. Captain. Head. Power. Attitude. Bossy. Authoritarian. Privileges. Mentor. Leader.
Burden of the team. Selection. Weeding out. Communication challenges. Loneliness.
Amidst the riveting action on the field, one aspect that often goes unnoticed, but is of paramount importance, is leadership. Cricket has witnessed some of the most iconic leaders, and their leadership styles have left an indelible mark on the game.
Being a leader in cricket or any team sport is all about perspective. When I ask you to visualise a cricket team captain, you may picture a Rohit Sharma or a Jos Buttler or maybe even a Pat Cummins. On the second visual, you may imagine their qualities too. For instance, I used to idolize Ricky Ponting as a captain. While many thought he was arrogant and cocky, I thought he was smart and had situational intelligence. Hence, the word leader could mean different for different people, and yet lead you to the same outcome - success for the team.
Traditional Categorization of Leadership
Traditionally, leaders are categorised as 1) Authoritarian 2) Authoritative 3) Laissez Faire 4) Democratic. But, as we progressed in our research in sport and leadership, two types of leadership were highlighted - transformational and servant leadership. Transformational leadership is widely spoken about, but let's delve a bit into servant leadership first.
Who is a Servant Leader?
A servant leader prioritizes the well-being and development of individual players. They aim to support and facilitate the growth of their team members, often placing their needs above their own. I can think of the short-lived captaincy of Ajinkya Rahane or the coaching of Rahul Dravid if I've to put it in perspective. A servant leader creates a nurturing and supportive team environment, where players feel valued and cared for. Rahul Dravid's coaching staff introduced the locker room - Best Fielding medal which has created a supportive environment for the fielders as well.
But would it be possible to compartmentalise leaders into terms with defined parameters that fit into each compartment? Can we always have very good servant leaders to support the team? Maybe not. Chelladurai (1993) provided a model that is a synthesis of leadership models that existed in management literature. He later redefined the model to develop the below outline (Chelladurai, 2007). Let's outlay cricket in the model -
Chelladurai's Leadership Model
In cricket, a captain must possess a deep understanding of the game's technical aspects, including batting, bowling, fielding, and the nuances of pitch conditions. They may need to be adept at making strategic decisions, such as setting field placements, selecting bowlers, and determining the batting order. Looking back on cricket history, one can't forget the legendary Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to their first-ever World Cup victory in 1992. Imran Khan’s astute leadership involved adapting to different playing conditions, nurturing young talents, and strategizing effectively. His leadership not only brought success but also changed the cricketing landscape in Pakistan.
Effective communication is crucial for a cricket captain. They must be able to convey their strategies and expectations clearly to the team. Empathy and understanding of individual player strengths and weaknesses can help in creating a positive team environment. And who comes to mind here? Kane Williamson, the captain of the New Zealand cricket team. He is celebrated for his quiet yet impactful leadership style. His ability to inspire his team through his communication skills, both on and off the field, is remarkable.
Observing how a captain executes plans during a match provides insight into their decision-making ability and adaptability to changing situations. Interactions with players, both on and off the field, reveal the captain's interpersonal skills and their ability to motivate and inspire the team. MS Dhoni remains one of the most iconic cricket captains of all time. His cool and composed approach to leadership has left an indelible mark on the game. Dhoni's ability to keep his composure under pressure, make calculated decisions, and instil confidence in his team has set a high bar for leadership.
Preferred Outcome of Influence:
The success of a cricket captain is often measured by the team's performance, including wins, losses, and overall improvement in skills and tactics. Player satisfaction and morale are crucial indicators of the captain's ability to lead effectively.
Actual Outcome of Influence:
The impact of a captain's leadership can be seen in the team's performance, reflected in statistics, match results, and overall achievements. Player feedback and team cohesion can provide further insight into the effectiveness of the captain's leadership style.
The Chelladurai Model offers a comprehensive framework for evaluating leadership in cricket. Applying this model enables stakeholders to assess a captain's effectiveness across various dimensions, from technical knowledge to interpersonal skills and their impact on team performance. By understanding and implementing the principles of the Chelladurai Model, cricket leaders can enhance their ability to lead and inspire their teams to tremendous success on the field. Leadership in cricket, as exemplified by the captains in the current ICC World Cup and legendary leaders of the past, encompasses a wide range of styles and approaches. Whether it's setting the tone, leading by example, effective communication, staying calm under pressure, adapting to different conditions, or nurturing young talent, these leaders have shown that cricket isn't just about physical prowess but also about the ability to inspire and unite a team.
As we enjoy the thrilling matches of the ICC World Cup, let's not just focus on the boundaries and wickets but also appreciate the leadership lessons that cricket offers. The game's rich history continues to be a testament to the enduring impact of strong and visionary leaders in the world of sports.
Chelladurai, P. (1993). Leadership. In R. N. Singer,M. Murphy, & K. Tennant (Eds.), The handbook on research in sport psychology (pp. 647–671).New York: Macmillan.
Chelladurai, P. (2007). Leadership in sports. In G.Tenenbaum & R. C. Eklund (Eds.). Handbook of sport psychology (3rd ed., pp. 113–135). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Dr. Sanika Divekar (DPsych., MSc., BA) is a qualified sport and exercise psychologist with a keen interest in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Cultural Sport Psychology.
Varadayini Gorhe (MSc. U.K, BA) is an applied sport psychologist based in Pune. Her interest lies in developing a healthier motivational climate for young athletes.