19 March 2023

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

During the second day of the three-day encounter between Royal and St Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, a question was put to Kumar Sangakkara during a brief stint as a guest commentator. He was asked about the experience and pressures of a big match.

‘Enjoy the atmosphere, the cricket out in the middle, the great sense of fun when playing a big match, the pressure and weight of tradition, expectations…stepping up under pressure….,’ he said, referring to Royal’s fifth wicket partnership between skipper Dasis Manchanayake and Ramiru Perera, and also the salvaging operation underway between the Thomian pair of Charuka and Senadi.

‘Make sure that when you do go out there, absorb the atmosphere, use it to understand what you need to do in terms of your skill and then keep concentrating on your skill over and over again. Ask yourself “what does my team need me to do to this delivery?” and repeat that question over and over again. [It] helps focus on what needs to be done rather than the atmosphere and the pressure around you.’

What caught my attention is the reference to the team, ‘what does my team need me to do to this delivery?’ ‘This delivery,’ is key. In other words, each and every moment of the game, after all he did say ‘keep asking that question over and over again.’  

Kumar Sangakkara’s success may be attributed to this mantra, which of course is one of many that can make for a successful career. Ricky Ponting attributed his success as a batsman to ‘treating every ball with respect.’ Nothing of ‘team’ was mentioned. Only Kumar will know whether he affirmed this theory each delivery he faced. His track record shows he has delivered. Ponting delivered too. Both won matches for their respective countries.

What needs to be done can be obtained from many sources, team-need being one of them. Understanding what the team needs does not mean that you could treat a bowler or a single delivery with disrespect. Even as you treat with respect bowler and delivery, what you do with the delivery can be determined by what the team needs you to do.  

Thinking ‘team’ as opposed to ‘self’ is a cultivable trait and that cultivation requires consistent affirmation in practice. We don’t see any of it though. We can only read signs and assume. Dasis Manchanayake, the Royal skipper, had to play the innings of his life to take his team out of trouble. He scored a century and followed it up with a half century in quick time in the second innings. The first was a grind and that’s what his team needed. The second was free-flowing and that’s what his team needed. He bowled a few overs and took a couple of wickets. The team needed these wickets. He plucked a couple of incredible catches. The team needed him to do so. He was constantly talking to his players, probably urging them to stay focused. He made field changes and bowling changes that delivered wickets. He was not perfect, for he got out in both innings, but seemed to have been perfect in asking himself the question that Sangakkara referred to: ‘what does my team need in this delivery?’ And not only when he was out there at the crease.

By the time the last over of the day came around on the second day, Royal’s Ramiru Perera, who also scored a century in the first innings, helping Dasis take their team out of the woods and into a commanding position, found himself close to a second innings fifty. The instructions from the dressing room were apparent; quick runs in anticipation of an overnight declaration. Ramiru was facing Akash Fernando, who had already taken eight wickets in the game. Raminu delivered for his team, scoring 17 runs in the five deliveries he faced inclusive of two sixers. He missed out on what would have been a deserved half-century by just four runs.

In a losing cause, Akash Fernando was outstanding. He delivered for his team in both innings, ensuring that Royal didn’t get off to a good start, as did Senesh Hettiarachchi who scored a dogged 46 in the second innings. They both may have thought ‘team’ when bowling or facing each and every delivery. It is also  significant that all seven bowlers called upon by Dasis Manchanayake delivered by taking at least one wicket. Again, 'team.'

The references are from the Royal-Thomian cricket encounter, 2023, i..e. the 144th Battle of the Blues, but it is not a Royal story or a Thomian story or a Royal-Thomian story. It is not a story that’s relevant only to cricket or to sports in general. It’s a story about collective needs and an individual’s decision, determination and discipline. Eminently applicable to all human endeavour and perhaps it’s the abject poverty with regard to these kinds of traits that has brought our planet to the woeful state it is in right now.

Tomorrow may be a better day if we thought ‘what does the larger collective require me to do.’

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart