Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's just not cricket - or is it?

The decision by the Australian captain and coach to stand down 4 players ahead of the test against India today has attracted a furore. Setting the tone for what's acceptable and what's not is critical to establishing good cultural norms. A robust feedback culture, respect for leadership and a commitment to excellence is essential in elite sport as in other workplaces. A few points though...
Sidelining non-compliers is reasonable as long as the punishment fits the crime. Any punishment sends a message but is it proportional? Michael Clarke should not judge the appropriateness of the punishment by what the media thinks or former players who played in a different era and might have operated under a regime characterised by a "win at all costs mentality". That's the same as keeping on the top salesperson even if they are a prize bully or a sexual harasser. Clarke should have determined the appropriate consequence by comparing with the ongoing values narrative in the team (if there is one), the culture he wants to instil and by being consistent with stated goals, standards, expectations and potential consequences.

If this transgression was used as a pretext to send a wakeup call and these players were scapegoated for other laxness in the team, this is not fair. Whatever we do or don't sends a message. But never punish just to send a message. I suspect in the wake of publicity about AFL players, cycling and our Oz swimming team, the time was ripe to shake up cricket and this was a good reason to do it. For mine, long term cultural integrity matters more than one test match. I can only hope they are as strict about other "off field antics" when one considers these players are high profile and represent their country.
Not handing in one's homework might seem on this occasion to have attracted a costly detention.  It might even seem old school. But we get the behaviour we deserve. We get the culture we're prepared to tolerate.

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