Should coaches try becoming controllers of their teams : Systemic explanation of Coaches Gary Kirsten and John Wright and their winning streak.

Should coaches try becoming controllers of their teams : Systemic explanation of Coaches Gary Kirsten and John Wright and their winning streak.

This article couldn't have come at a better time with Indian Cricket Team winning the "World Cup". Congratulations to Team India for their Stupendous Victory. I am sure all of us will cherish the memory of the Indian Cricket team carrying Sachin Tendulkar over their shoulders … but what was more heartening to see was Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli carrying the "Coach" or "Guru" Gary Kirsten on their shoulders. Is it the same team who had an acrimonious relationship with their previous coach Greg Chappel?

Indian Cricket over the past few years have seen very aggressive, dominating and media savy coaches like "Greg Chappel" for Team India and "John Buchanan" for Kolkotta Night Riders while on the other hand we had ultra cool, assertive but polite, non dominating and media shy coaches like "Gary Kirsten" and "John Wright". I hope we all know the results of the individual teams while each of these individuals were donning the role of "Coaches". The teams coached by "Greg Chappel" and "John Buchanan" failed pathetically while the teams coached by "Gary Kirsten" and "John Wright" succeeded. A lot of it has been already written while the teams succeeded and failed but most have missed out the fundamental problem relating to Coaches.

In this article I will explain the same from a systemic point of view a very fundamental systemic problem that was getting created with "Dominant" and "Aggressive" Coaches trying to control the teams as systems.

The way a project, family, country, company is a technical system, similarly a sports or a cricket team is also a technical system wherein the team members are the structural components of the system and they interact with each other to deliver the behaviors expected from the team as a system. Hence all the design principles and patterns that any well designed system needs to posses should also be true for a Cricket team as well.

As we know , one of the very fundamental property of any well designed system is "Every well designed system needs a controller wherein the job of the controller is to control the way structural components interact with each other , so as to give the desired behaviors. "

In a nutshell , there cannot be a well designed system in this world without the controller. The system without a controller will give unexpected behaviors resulting in the systems to fail.

For a Cricket Team , the Captain is the controller of the team as a system and is responsible for controlling the team members [resources] so as to deliver the desired behavior and is accountable for the success/ failure of the team as a system.

The following link describes in detail the need behind a controller

Need behind the controller

While the following link describes the important characteristics of a controller of a system.

Characteristics of a controller

Among these above mentioned characteristics, there is one characteristic / property of the controller which can single handedly decide the success / failure of the system. The property is "Controllers are Strictly Singleton" ie There cannot exist a well designed system in this world with more than one controller trying to control a particular region at a particular point of time.

Ideally in most of the systems it will never happen, but in case it happens accidentally / deliberately[due to lack of knowledge] , the system is bound for a failure."

Have you ever seen the following

  • Team with more than one managers
  • Country with more than one Prime Ministers / Presidents
  • City with more than one Police Commissioners
  • State with more than one Chief Ministers
  • A house lying with the jurisdiction of multiple police stations
  • A company with more than one CEOs

Be assured ideally it will not happen but whenever it happens the system is bound for a failure.

The articles on the following links show the case of systems where in accidentally / deliberately [due to lack of knowledge] the systems landed up with multiple controllers there by resulting in system failure.

Family as a system with multiple controllers

Indian politics - A system with multiple controllers

Case - A company with multiple CEOs

So mostly we will see a cricket team with a single captain. But as mentioned above there have been instances in the past wherein the cricket team landed up with multiple captains there by resulting in teams as systems to fail.

One of the classical examples happened a couple of years back at the Indian Primer League - In IPL season 2009, there was a team called as "Kolkotta Knight Riders" and had a coach called John Buchanan. Just before the start of the tournament, this gentleman came out with the concept of multiple captaincy. The moment he exposed this concept of multiple captaincy … I immediately realized that he is talking about systems with multiple controllers which has never succeeded and will never succeed. Although a lot of veteran cricketers criticized the same but no one understood that what this gentlemen was talking about is the precise problem of systems with multiple controllers which was a perfect recipe for a disaster.

I was just wondering what was running through "John Buchanan" mind to deliberately think about this concept and Shahrukh Khan to endorse Johns decision. At last sanity prevailed and the coach dropped the idea of multiple captains. Although the coach dropped the concept at the last minute, but just the talk of multiple captaincy made the entire system fail. Till the last moment the players were not sure as to who was their controller.

Although the coach dropped the concept of multiple captaincy and continued with a single captain, but still there were multiple controllers within that system.

Can you guess who was the other controller apart from the captain who was actually supposed to be the controller of the system (Team)?

The answer is the Coach himself.

History of sports management shows whenever the coaches have started controlling the teams, the teams have failed pathetically.

The very simple reason being …. The players(Team members) don't know whose order they are supposed to take. Are they supposed to take the orders from the Captain who is the actual controller or the Coach who is deliberately forcing himself as the controller for the system. This is where players don't know what to do … resulting in the systems to fail.

And if I believe the media reports … there were not just two controllers (John Buchanan and Brendon Mccullum) … There were multiple controllers in that team… I heard that John Buchanan was the head coach with multiple subordinate coaches for cricketing aspects like batting, bowling , fielding etc etc all controlling the team members. Think about the poor team members

This has not happened for the first time in Indian Cricket…

Few years back another aggressive and dominant Indian Coach Greg Chappel tried controlling the team apart from the captain Rahul Dravid and again the team failed pathetically and failed to get into the quarter finals of the world cup.

The beauty of this problem is although there have been two brilliant examples of the same problem but still most of the cricket administrators haven't learnt about this problem, its reasoning's and the solution.

On the other hand the same Indian Team has been blessed by two Coaches John Wright and Gary Kirsten who never forced themselves on the team [tried controlling the team] but only help the team members understand their shortcomings in a polite but assertive manner along with the solutions and the results are there for the world to see.

Sport / Cricket team as a system is full of lots of examples relating to the controller design patterns …as this is a kind of system wherein the system fails and succeeds at a very frequent intervals helping people judge the performance of the controllers. You will see me describing a lot of articles in future relating to cricket teams and the controllers.

In a nutshell , "Captain is the controller of a team as a system … hence coaches should try not to control the team… instead play the role of a mentor helping the captain and the team members overcome their short comings ".

One of the reasons behind the success of Gary Kirsten and John Wright as Coaches was they never tried controlling the team or the members of the team allowing the Captain to control the team and its resources.

I hope atleast one of the administrators of BCCI read this article as they will soon be looking out for a coach for the Indian national cricket team.

Hemant Jha
Founder - VPlanSolutions
Researcher, Trainer