Ask any effective leader, whether it be in sport or otherwise, what the most significant characteristic of a successful team is, and chances are the response will be to have a clear sense of purpose and intent.
Over the course of history there are examples of highly successful teams that all share a ruthlessness to win. Whether it’s the New Zealand All Blacks in recent years or the New York Yankees of the late 1920s, these teams etched themselves in history by having a crystal clear purpose – to win.
In Ancient Greece winning was so important that a Greek Goddess was dedicated to this notion.
Nike, the Goddess of Victory carried a wreath, always ready to crown a victor in battle or games of challenge. She is often seen with a shield upon which it was said that she inscribed the name of each victor of a battle.
The relevance of this to modern sport is that since ancient times, mankind has equated success and triumph with being regarded as number one in some pursuit whether it be a sport or other aspect of life.
As an outsider watching the current Australian cricket team, I don’t see clear purpose and intent, and they are certainly far from being number one. I’m sure they want to win, but is that their true purpose?
If we are to believe their most recent internal review and renewed commitment to the Australian public it would appear not.
I see phrases like elite honesty and words such as fairness, but the word ‘winning’ seems to have taken a back seat. To watch the current team, is to observe a team that looks lost, confused, and unsure where the new line of competitiveness lies for them. They appear to have lost their intent.
After the first one day match in Perth and ultimately crushing defeat, the above view appeared to be substantiated.
After the second match in Adelaide we were given a sense of hope with a spirited win thanks to a special individual bowling and fielding performance from Marcus Stoinis, but overall the win was unconvincing.
In the third match in Hobart, the Aussies were well placed to instil their own crushing defeat as they had the South African batting line up in trouble early, three for 55 after 15 overs.
At this crucial point in the game a Mitchell Starc rocket ball strikes Faf du Plessis on the arm. The South African captain was clearly rattled.
With a clear intent and purpose, Starc would have relished this moment. The Mitchell Starc of old would have stared the batsman down and given some stern words of advice – intimidating him not just physically but mentally.
Instead, Starc chose not to engage immediately walking back to his marker. At the end of his over Starc is hit for four and walks back to his fielding position presumably swearing in frustration as he covers his mouth with his hat, I assume, so as not to display any unsociable behaviour.
This is one of many examples where, when given the opportunity to be ruthless, the current Australian team hasn’t taken it.
What followed was the highest partnership ever in an ODI against Australia. The Australian team of old wouldn’t have allowed this, just as the Starc of old wouldn’t have.
A team whose clear intent and purpose is to win would seize these key moments. And therein lies the problem for the current team as it adjusts and develops under a new regime. It is unsure of its purpose and intent, of how to behave, and ultimately unsure of how to win.
The team should be given time to establish a new winning brand under its new leadership. With the World Cup only seven months away I hope this happens quickly, and maybe then they will be graced by the Greek Goddess Nike, and inscribed on her shield of Victory.