History beckoned and South Africa grasped their place in it despite the heroic efforts of David Warner. The Proteas were superior in many physical and technical aspects but it was as much a change in attitude and a reminder of what was most important that allowed them to become the first team ever to whitewash Australia in a five-match series.
Cricket is an individual sport wrapped in the context of a team environment more than any other sport. Even in team versions of golf and tennis it is possible to play shots to the benefit of your partner, at least in foursomes and doubles, but in cricket everyone has to bat and bowl their own.
You can run the runs and hold the catches but the truth is that each player is alone when it comes to the implementation of their skills. So the difference between the most consistent and successful teams and those which win sporadically is the development of a culture which maximises every element of ‘togetherness’ available.
A personal disregard, perhaps even indifference, to one’s individual successes sends a powerful message to team mates that milestones are irrelevant without a collective victory. Landmarks and milestones are to be celebrated and cherished by all of the XI, even the whole squad, rather than the individual.
Personal mastery and selflessness means that players care about each other’s well being as much as their runs and wickets. The antithesis of this approach is a player being concerned about his place in the starting line-up and thinking about what he might need to do in order to retain it for the next match. Much as rugby has truly transformed into a 23-man game, today’s best cricket teams rotate their squads and select specific players for particular conditions. New Zealand’s Black Caps were the first cricket team to make it clear there would be no place in national teams for sulkers. They had the best example to follow – the All Blacks.
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