Friday, 1 August 2014

England's cricketers and the danger of burnout


How to explain England's cricketers' strange trajectory over the last year or two? From hero to zero, and now apparently back again after a crushing win against the touring Indians: it's been a strange ride. They've lost most of a whole experienced team. They've sacked Kevin Pietersen, easily their most naturally talented batsmen. They've brought in a lot of talented youngsters. They've lost. And lost. And lost.

Why they were losing seemed a bit of an open-and-shut case. They were exhausted. Knackered from constant touring, a treadmill of meaningless (if lucrative) games, a lack of domestic cricket to feel their way through any loss of form, isolation from family and friends. And they were tired out, most of all, by a constant numbing reiteration of management jargon and performance management nonsense - 'areas', 'targets', 'plans' and the like - when what they really wanted to do was play some cricket. As Jarrod Kimber has put it, cricket people have usually never worked in the private sector. They don't know that no-one has talked like this since the late-'eighties Wall Street days of red braces and lunch-is-for-whimps idiocy. Maybe there were some holdouts during the 1990s reign of chinos-and-Friends (with a latte), but that was it. England were behind the times, and they didn't even know it.

Except now they emerge into the Southmpton sunshine looking like a bunch of cricketing giants, having so comprehensively outplayed an Indian team that can often be their own worst enemies.

The secret? Injecting a bit of fun back into their work. Just forgetting about all their targets and schedules and focusing on the pitch, the conditions and the moment. A pre-match team talk by the team's coach, Peter Moores (above), emphasised the value of the players just expressing themselves. Getting a smile back on their faces. Breaking free of the burdens the structures on them had been supposed to lift, but had actually then re-imposed.

Burnout is a real danger, bringing with it anxiety, gloom, aggression and negativity. Turns out that a bit of a rest, a changed attitude and a few joyous sunny days can help you fight back.

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