Saturday, 30 April 2011

The cares of office?

The league season starts today and with it come so many questions. What will it be - promotion, mid table respectability, relegation?  Will the teas be up to standard?  How often will it rain?  Will Fantasy Bob's back stand the strain; what about his knee, what about his shoulder - what, in fact, about any part of the historic monument that is his formerly fantastic athletic frame?  Will there be a clutch of 50s and 5-fers, or a catalogue of ducks and wicketless efforts?

But a crucial question is whether the cares of captaincy will reduce his effectiveness as a player?  There are those reading these words who will know that any further reduction in FB's effectiveness would render him on the further side of totally useless.  But putting that issue, and FB, to the side for a moment, this is is one of the great philosphical questions - is captaincy a stimulus or a burden?  As Shakespeare's Henry IV puts it 'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown'.  Or not?

captaincy a burden
To put the question another way - is FB a Botham or an Imran Khan?  Obviously he shares many characteristics with both these minor cricketers: 2 arms, 2 legs and cricket sweaters for a start. After that strong beginning comparisons become a little more strained.  But these 2 great all rounders are at the opposite ends of one very interesting graph of achievement.  The impact of captaincy on Botham was disastrous (30 years ago this year as it happens).  For Imran it had exactly the oppposite impact.

captaincy a stimulus
Figures do not lie.  Botham's batting average in the Tests in which he was not captain was 36.73, his bowling average 27.93.  As captain, his batting average collapsed to 13.14 , and his bowling deteriorated, although not so disastrously, to 33.09.  On the other hand,  Imran's batting average went from 25.44 as non-captain to 52.35 as skipper and his bowling from 25.33 to 20.22.    What an impact and how the Pakistani team responded.  Leadership obviously suited him.  FB has no information as to how effective they were on winning the toss but it would not surprise him to find that Imran also had a positive effect on the spinning coin, winning significantly more than he lost.   No doubt even the sandwiches he brought for tea improved dramatically.

MS Dhoni is getting big licks as the best skipper around these days.  It is interesting therefore to note his figures on this chart.  Captaincy improves his contribution -  his batting average as skipper is 50.10, a significant improvement on his prior 33.07.  But his precedecessors Ganguly and Dravid found the captaincy had an opposite impact.  It seems that some are born to lead.

1 comment:

  1. It is an interesting question and I do hope that FB's new burden of responsibility does not impact on his personal performance. One player who definitely was affected by the cares of captaincy was Michael Vaughan. His batting average for the 31 tests before he was made England captain was 50.98. As captain he only managed 35.89 for the following 33 matches.
    In previous times the custom adopted by the England selectors was to choose a successful county captain, regardless of whether he was a Test-class player, and build the side around him. Thus we had the likes of M.J.K. Smith and Mike Brearley running the show. The Australians, on the other hand, tended to choose the best player in the side as captain. This approach has generally served them well and has subsequently been adopted in England. The merits of both policies can be debated at length.