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An interactive evening with Mike Brearley

Ritesh Misra Roar Guru

By Ritesh Misra, Ritesh Misra is a Roar Guru

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    Mike Brearley is one of the best cricket captains ever and his book, On Form, was launched recently.

    Former Indian Test cricketer Madhav Apte was at the Mumbai launch and applauded the choice of the book’s name. He said losing form was something every athlete goes through, including all-time greats such as Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar.

    Regarding captaincy, Brearley said that small things are very important. For instance, the captain should not fiddle around with the field placings too much. The same slip fielders in the same order are advisable, as they develop a sense of comfort and calm while standing to each other. Similarly, one should not tinker with the batting order, except once in a while maybe as a shock strategy.

    Brearley said often one tends to brood on what has happened rather than moving on. He gave the example of Jonathan Trott, who averaged 90 versus Australia but had an ordinary ‘nets day’ and got beaten a couple of times. He started thinking about it so much that it ultimately led to mental disintegration.

    The contrary example was of the much-criticised Dean Elgar, who was beaten maybe 25 times in the second innings of the recent Johannesburg Test but with dogged determination scored a remarkable 86 not out.

    According to Brearley, thinking too much is counter-productive. He gave his own example of one day being overnight at stumps and then thinking a lot about how he would bat the next day. As he could not sleep, he then read a book Zen and Archery, in which the author had said that the best archers were those who did not shoot, but let the arrow shoot for them. Brearley thought to himself, “Tomorrow, I will let my bat get runs for me”. He was out second ball the next day.

    Brearley said the only two athletes he knew of who were always on form were Don Bradman and Roger Federer. In fact, he said the Don once told him, “I don’t know what it is to be out of form as I was never out of form.”

    Brearley clarified that lacking form is different from getting out early, and stated with a chuckle that Bradman had more ducks than him in Test cricket –
    even though Bradman was the best batsman of all time, while he was a very ordinary Test batsman.

    What’s important is not to think about the duck but to move on and play the next innings with a clear mind.

    Of the current Indian team. Brearley praised Virat Kohli for giving the team pride and aggression. He said that he admired him a lot as he was always attentive, keen-eyed, and a wonderful batsman. He gave the example of the third Test of the recent South African series, where it would have been easy to give up with the South Africans at 1-140 chasing 260, however the Indians hung on, as they knew that if they took one or two wickets anything was possible.

    Brearley opined that Kohli needs to have people who will tell him when he is going wrong. He said that a captain of a cricket team is like the leader of a country, giving the example of John F Kennedy, who used to have a group of people whose job was to criticise his policies.

    Of the three captains he most admired, Brearley said Ray Illingworth was super strategically. The second he named was Ian Chappell, who was very aggressive and a good reader of the game. Brearley said that sometimes he did go over the top with his aggression but Chappell was a student of the game and always wanted people to do their best, be resilient and try new things. He also praised Chappell as an excellent commentator.

    As for the third, with a chuckle, Brearley said, “I like the look of Kohli.”

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