“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” - Aristotle
Imagine this, a star studded lineup for a Dream Team XI- Virat Kohli, David Warner, Kane Wiliamson, Jos Buttler. Everyone plays their own part in the best way, but there is hardly any glue that binds them together. Do you think the team will win?
Everyone performs well, but when it comes to decision making in the critical moment, when it comes to longevity of the team, when it comes to peak team performance and continuing to peak, that glue matters the most.
This glue is called “Cohesion”. Believe it or not, team cohesion has been one of the most important elements that builds a team or destroys it.
Whenever I think of a Cohesive unit, I recall Steve Waugh’s team, Saurav Ganguly’s team or even Virat/Rohit’s current team. But is leadership the only quality that contributes to Cohesion?
The reasons to get and stay attracted to the team differs not only from person to person but also situationally. Hence, cohesion by itself is multidimensional, dynamic, is purposive and it provides a context for social relationships as well (Carron & Eys, 2002)
While we have put down the technical aspect, definition and characteristics of cohesion, it will be beneficial to understand what one can do to help increase cohesion in Cricket. Adapted from Carron (2002) here are the correlates of team cohesion in Cricket:
Environmental Factors: So do you think a Ranji Team may have a better cohesion compared to an IPL team that is formed just before the season. It may be true! This is because the IPL players may experience lack of proximity during pre-season as they all belong to different parts of the world. Moreover, having 16 team-members by itself may take a long time to build cohesion, the model says that the larger the team, the more difficult it is to form a better cohesion. Having said that, country teams may get the opportunity to build a healthier cohesion due to the proximity factor.
Personal Factors: Apart from the Environmental factors, personal factors are also impacted due to cohesion. It is said that group efficacy increases and the factors like anxiety, depression and stress reduces in a highly cohesive unit.
Team Factors: Other factors that have a high impact on team cohesion includes the norms of the team. It is seen that if the team develops its own culture and norms that define the team, the unit develops a high amount of cohesion. Apart from the National Anthem, The Australian Cricket Team also has a victory song and every Aussie team has had a ‘songmaster’- the one who sings the song after they've won. Currently, it's Alex Carrey And the :songs is called “Underneath the Southern Cross I stand”. Such songs or mottos, or war cries like “Akkha Mumbai Khelega” “Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo” for the IPL teams, have proven to be a factor that contributes to the dressing room culture, fan culture and ultimately, the team cohesion to a larger extent.
Leadership Factors: Ganguly-Chappel, Pietersen-Peter Moore are two of the famous coach-athlete relationships in cricket that got the worst out of the team. This is the last correlate that matters a lot - impact of the leadership on team cohesion- especially clashes in decision making styles and coach-athlete relationship.
According to Carron’s Conceptual Model of Cohesion, all these correlates not only impact the task based cohesion i.e the teams intention and goals towards their performance and to work towards it together, but also impact the social cohesion of the team i.e sticking together beyond the game. The model also states this social cohesion helps develop a stronger unit that performs on field. Australian coach of 2000’s John Buchanan was highly known to have developed a social unit by taking the team to bootcamps in the Australian Outbacks or even Jungles. In Steve Waugh's "Autobiography Out of My Comfort Zone, he has credited Buchanan’s “odd” ways of developing team bonds that impacted their communication on field.
Carron’s model concludes by proving a high impact of cohesion on Group as well as individual outcomes and performances. It can be said, developing a cohesive team is one of the most challenging but, the most important skill, the responsibility of which not only lies with the captain but the whole team!
A.Carron, M.A. Eys, S.R. Brays (2002). Team Cohesion and Team Success in Sports. Journal of Sport Sciences, 20(2):119-26. DOI:10.1080/026404102317200828
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.