On the 1st of March 2014 the South African u19 cricket team made history by winning the U19 World Cup final. They bowled out Pakistan for 131 in a disciplined and dominant bowling display that was spear-headed by Kagiso Rabada, the second top wicket taker of the tournament. On the day all-rounder Corbin Bosch took the man of the match award with figures of 4 wickets for 15 runs. Bosch’s bowling partnership with Justin Dill who took 2 for 29 was a key part of the match. Together they bowled 14 overs for 26 runs and took 5 wickets. Whilst these bowlers received more attention, it truly was an all-round team performance (as it was throughout the tournament) as the other bowlers Ngazibini Sigwili and Yaseen Valli also assisted and the team fielded very well – the pressure on Pakistan was immense. South Africa were sure and steady in their batting and achieved the score of 134/4 in 42 overs, with Captain and Player of the tournament Aiden Markram scoring an unbeaten 66. South Africa was the only team unbeaten in the tournament (including the warm up games) and looked in charge for the entire final.
What makes this quality performance even more interesting is that there was no returning players from the previous World Cup- the entire squad was World Cup rookies. Another unusual feature was that the South African management team had only 5 members – Coach Ray Jennings, Physio Megan Dutton, Manager Morgan Pillay, Video Analyst Kyle Southgate and the 5th member being made up of Assistant Coach Mandla Mashimbyi and Greg Smith. (Mandla had to return home halfway through the tournament due to pneumonia, to be replaced by Greg Smith) South Africa have been finalists twice before in the junior competition (2002 and 2008), however they have never won it. The senior South African team, the Proteas have been unfairly labelled as chokers due to having never won a World Cup (in either the 20 over or 50 over version) inspite of almost always going into the tournament’s highly ranked and full of world class players. So how did a bunch of understaffed rookies with an inherited shadow of underperformance in World Cups win in such a dominant way? This article is primarily focused on the players and management however there are scores of parents, coaches, and other staff that all supported this team, and contributed to making this happen, I just don’t know their stories as well.
In this article you will find what I believe to be some of the key factors that contributed to victory and I will ask some questions on how those factors may apply to you and your business, school or team.
The talent pipeline
For several years John Bailey has been holding regional u17 Talent Identification camps for Cricket South Africa , where between 20 and 30 players are called up from each of the six national franchise’s, with a further camp being held in Fort Hare with a focus on transformation. With the assistance of Cricket South Africa Scout’s and local coaches the camps are held over 2 days and assess skills in the nets, fielding ability and fitness and leadership and thinking in the class room. The best of each camp assembles for a 4 day national u17 camp where more assessment, development and inspiration takes place. At each camp the message is about the inspiration of representing South Africa at the World Cup, and the challenge to reach the standards necessary (both on and off the pitch, including fitness) to get there AND perform. John and Ray have compiled a spreadsheet with hundreds of names over many years that they track (sometimes from when players are as young as 16) as waves of players move through the age-groups. This spreadsheet includes fitness data, performance stats and a host of other metrics. As reports come in from a network of passionate selectors, coaches and scouts and players are “seen” by Ray and John who personally watch a lot of cricket to spot talent, they are added to the database as young potential. This pipeline is driven by head of youth cricket Niels Momberg and involves many scouts, cricket consultants and coaches in assisting identifying and developing talent. These camps feed into the national weeks: the u17 week, the Coca Cola u18 week, and the u19 Franchise week called Cubs Week. When needed Ray also visits the top and fringe players in each franchise for a day or two of intense practice and discussions. Ray is supported by a series of scouts throughout the country and a group of selectors who are able to see different players in their regions. Every selection meeting is a fierce conversation of passionate cricket men putting forward who they think would be the best mix of talent for South Africa. Selectors spend many hours watching players and debating their merits, getting to know them and often coaching them themselves, the mixture of views and styles leads to a selection process that takes days, not hours to find the best XI or Best XV to tour.
Where is your talent pipeline coming from, and are the custodians of that pipeline passionate enough to raise and rattle the bar?
Leadership and commitment
Ray Jennings has been the coach of the u19 team since 2005 and has coached the senior Protea side and the Royal Challengers Bangalore and played at the highest level in a long and distinguished career. He is unwavering on holding performance standards and values and has the reputation for being tough and uncompromising which he is. What isn’t mentioned nearly as much is the depth of relationship he develops with his players, and the work he does to refine his coaching style and technique. In the past he has struggled to get the best out of players with certain styles and attitudes and I believe his fine-tuning of his approach to those types of players has taken his coaching forward significantly.
Aiden Markram captained the side twice on the India tour in Sep/Oct 2013 and has captained sides throughout his career and his humble and assertive leadership has been a massive value-add to the team. Aiden almost wasn’t part of the u19 team at all as he wasn’t selected for any Cubs or Coca-Cola weeks in 2012/2013 despite good performances for his school and club. He was however on Ray and John Bailey’s database of youth talent. Once the realisation was made that he had almost “slipped through” Ray immediately phoned him and told him that he was in his plans and to keep working hard and he would have a shot at showing what he could do in the near future. A little over a year after that surprise phone call Aiden was Captaining a World Cup winning side and was player of the tournament.
Yaseen Valli was the incumbent captain on the 2013 India tour and when he learnt that he was not going to be the captain for the World Cup he was understandably disappointed. Much to his credit he engaged with Ray to extract the learnings and find the leadership stretch to further develop himself as the new Vice-Captain. He then focused on supporting his new captain and finding ways to contribute more to the team; that alone speaks to his qualities as a leader and as a man. He was one of the top all-rounders of the tournament. Quality teams require different levels of leadership throughout.
Kagiso Rabada has been playing for the u19 side for a little over a year, however in this tournament we have seen an impressive step-up in skills and focus which was matched by his off-field leadership and holder of standards within the side. He was the leader of the bowling attack, his fast, aggressive and accurate bowling set the tone throughout the tournament, however what was arguably even more impressive was how he demanded excellence continually from himself and his teammates.
Justin Dill was the fittest fast bowler during the Sep/Oct India tour and continued to bowl accurately and effectively, whilst contributing in the field and even as a (very low order) batsmen. He consistently delivered a high quality all-round effort and lead by example.
All four player leaders mentioned here were part of ESPN CricInfo Team of the Tournament
There were a series of other important leaders in the side; leaders in role and experience, and possibly some of the more important leaders were the three players who didn’t play a lot of cricket at the tournament. Due to the knock-out nature of the tournament the best XI is chosen for the majority of games with one change here and there for tactics. Sibonelo Makhanya, Bradley Bopp and Andile Phehlukwayo played very little cricket yet never complained or moaned, they just went about the job of serving their teammates with towels and drinks, working hard in the nets and at practice and contributing overall with a great attitude; in my opinion, they were critical to the success of the team by leading in a way that is not easy to do.
The 2013 September/October tour of India revealed gaps in our players skills, fitness and overall ability. We beat India once in a close game, however were very well beaten by them twice. At the time I estimated that we started the tour 50% behind them, and ended it 30% behind them. Each player was given a detailed report on what he needed to work on to catch India (Who we considered to be the benchmark), this was combined with a player’s own self-assessment of what the next steps were. Fast forward to March 1 and those players who toured India and were selected for the World Cup all stepped-up significantly. Greg Oldfield’s father shared the story of coming home to find his son in full cricket kit including pads, helmet and bat and multiple layers of clothing sprinting up and down the driveway for an extra fitness session. He wanted to do the 10% extra that others wouldn’t or couldn’t.(The layers of clothes simulate some of the heat of the subcontinent) This is one example of the many within the team showing the commitment of the players to improve and become the best they can be. These players worked incredibly hard over long periods of time to be at the level they wanted to be for the World Cup, that kind of dedication and commitment is not common.
Does your team have the leadership and vision to inspire those levels of commitment and changed behaviour; to do the 10% more that others couldn’t or wouldnt?
Coach Ray Jennings has mentioned several times in the media that there are no superstars in this team, it’s just a team with great attitude who care about each other and playing the game to the best of their ability. This has always been a focus with Ray, and from a mental side, I have used the Raising Talent movie process to further develop this shared vision of success. The process involves the players creating a personal and team movie of what success looks like for them; a 30 second highlight reel. These movies are then supercharged/enhanced with meaning – with the team spending a good 15 minutes brainstorming all the positive meanings achieving that movie would ignite in them – we don’t stop brainstorming until the energy in the room is so strong you can feel it and the players start saying things like, “I just want to go play right now, even if it is 9pm”.
This movie serves to inspire, create energy, lock in belief (seeing is believing) and bring the team closer together through hearing and combing their shared meanings. A new addition to the 2014 system is to also add in a personal “No” movie. This is the movie of what regret would look like. What event(s) would you cringe about if you let yourself down? How would that play out? The technique is to play it in your head and then strongly say “No!” to it and then focus on your “Yes!” movie – this creates a powerful propulsion system to stay focused and do the necessary work.
Another new addition to the 2014 system was inspired by former All Black coach John Mitchell, I was fortunate enough to interview him in January 2014 at a Waterpolo conference at Kingswood College. He shared a photo of the 2011 Lions Currie Cup winning team, holding the “trophy” that they won and celebrating. What was most interesting and impressive about this photo was that it was taken months before they won the Currie Cup. It was a pre-season photo he had staged to help them visualise success. I thought it was so clever that I borrowed the concept and did the same.
Trying to find a trophy that looked like the u19 World Cup trophy was tricky, eventually I found one and asked my good friend Dave Estment to come and take a few photos for us at the holding camp in Pretoria before the tournament with the “trophy” and they came out beautifully. The photos were framed to be placed next to the bed of each player and management member during the tournament; another way to make the movies real and reinforce the process. I also wanted a process phrase for the players to focus on, in support of the bigger goal. A process, that if followed correctly, will lead to the outcome. The phrase that Ray and I work-shopped was, “One green light at a time …. until its done.” Which later got shortened to . “OneGreenDotAtATime” for Twitter and Facebook purposes.
What is your mantra that links a process to achieving your big vision or goal?
2014 © Dave Estment
Process: Green Dots and Red Dots
Watching cricket with Ray is an education by itself, aside from his deep insight into the game and great cricketing stories he has an uncanny ability to predict when a wicket is going to fall. I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how he does it. Through many long conversations and questions I discovered that he is sub-consciously running a system where every ball he would evaluate as a red or green dot/light. If the bowler “won” the contest, in that he made it difficult for the batter to score, or the batter had to work hard for a run, he would get a “green dot.” As the green dots accumulated, so did the pressure for the batsmen until eventually he we would “try force something”, and those critical moments were the ones that Ray could predict 8 times out of 10. Once I understood this, we started teaching this concept to the whole squad, who started watching the game at another level; counting out and debating if a ball was a green or red dot. What we found was that at around 8 green dots an orange dot would happen – a critical moment. Our belief was if we “won” more critical moments than our opponents we would win the game. In the field you would hear fielders sharing this information with each other; shouting it out, bowlers would even say to the next bowler, “Here we go, I have given you 3 green dots – keep going!” This allowed the players to stay much more in the game and always have somewhere to start again if the bowler bowled a bad ball/got a red dot. They will just start again at one green dot. It was an effective engagement, process and resilience technique all rolled into one tiny green dot…..
Who has that world class expertise that you can tap into and what are you doing to move it from unconscious to conscious to move your team forward?
The team behind the team
Behind every trophy there is a team of off-field support whose combined efforts and handling of key moments push a team towards victory (Or if they get it wrong pull them away from it), our management team was a pushing towards victory team. Megan Dutton is at the top of her game as a sports physio, her ability to warm-up, warm-down, assess and treat players whilst not tolerating any youthful misdirection of energy is a key skill she holds, amongst many. Morgan Pillay is a veteran manager who is logistically on the button and can always find a way to make things happen that is for the good of the team. Kyle Southgate is an up and coming video analyst whose work is critical for the players learning and development. He customises review packages and creates in depth match analysis that allows the players to fully prepare. As an example before the final, each player spent five or more hours going over video of the Pakistan players to fine-tune their bowling, batting and fielding strategies. Greg Smith and Mandla Mashimbyi both played top cricket and are great examples of the new breed of relationship based coaches, who engage, discuss and ask questions to get the players to learn more deeply, and own their own outcomes and strategies. You will find the entire management team in the gym every off day from 6am, there is a real vibe and team unity that Ray drives both within the larger team and management team. An example of this was in Dubai the 20 man squad got assigned four 5 man apartments, Ray made the call to split the management team amongst the four apartments to deepen the relationships between the players and management, and he considers this one of the key moments that the team got right at the World Cup. None of the other countries, to my knowledge, integrated players and management in the team apartments.
There are long discussions and debates at every meal, always held together and on time. Everyone’s opinion is respected and considered. Ray leads this team vibe, he is a hard task master for everyone in the entire team, including himself – it is a cauldron of high performance. Typically South Africa doesn’t play many games in a u19 season, 2013 was a bumper season where we played 12 ODI’s. To compete with our competitors like India, Australia, England who are playing double that amount of ODI’s and more we have to be relentless on standards, values and attitude. This is what Ray does better than anyone else. I personally estimate u19 players with a good attitude will leave any tour between 20% and 30% better than they arrived. Those who don’t have a good attitude for whatever reason struggle, and part of my job is to assist those players dealing with whatever is in the way of accelerating their growth. This can be very challenging and can take time, so fortunately I have been in the system for a while to assist in this way and the young men I have worked with are a credit to themselves and our country. There is a massive challenge for any talent who has come through a school system being lauded as a hero, and often didn’t have to work too hard to do it. At international level that amazing talent won’t be enough, and learning to grind, to put in the hard yards, to be relentless, is possibly one of the biggest challenges any outstanding talent will face in his career. It is a skillset that is often underdeveloped – there was never any need for it, until now.
Does your larger team have the support to lead with their expertise and contribute in their own unique and special way- what are you doing to foster that connection and team spirit?
Govern the Wicket
In 2011, Corrie Van Zyl (who had just returned from coaching the Proteas at the 2011 World Cup) called what was called the Govern the Wicket conference where every mental coach and sports psychologist who had been involved within the Cricket South Africa system and some key coaches, including himself and incoming coach Gary Kirsten discussed and debated for two days how to answer two questions.
1. How do we get South Africa to No 1 and stay there in all formats of the game?
2. How do we make sure we start, and continue winning World Cups?
After much engaging debate and discussion with some key contributions from Jeremy Snape, Francois Hugo, Henning Gericke, Paddy Upton and Michael Cooper and myself a three tier philosophy emerged. We needed to develop players that can learn, make better decisions and lead more effectively and we needed to develop coaches and the environments that the coaches create/work within better to support the players developing in that way. A Player, Coach and Environment focus. Shortly thereafter Michael Cooper and I (Tim Goodenough) representing Coaching Unity were appointed formal mental/High Performance consultants to Cricket South Africa to drive this process in collaboration with Paddy Upton at a senior level and other stakeholders throughout the system.
It has been a real privilege to teach our u19 boys the Raising Talent techniques to prepare them mentally for big and small matches, help them lead and learn and make better decisions, and bounce back quicker from errors. Using the 2013 Raising Talent addition of “Scanning” also helped the players handle the pressure better, release the shadow of choking -if any shadow still lingered, and assisted in dealing with the mental challenges that come with performing in a World Cup. This process allows you to BELIEVE more deeply than ever before in your ability to achieve your goals. There have been some great lessons that have fine-tuned the system from my time working with the SA hockey Lads from 2009-2012, our desperately close Olympic Qualifying Attempt with Irish Hockey in early 2012 and falling achingly close in the Varsity Cup with the NMMU Madibaz in 2013. The lessons, friendships and feedback from these campaigns allowed the system to be better than it has ever been, and supported me being the be the best I can be at teaching it. When you apply this system to a team that has all the great qualities as described above, magic happens. What an honour to have been part of it, thanks to all that supported me and us as team,
A special thanks to Cricket South Africa; in this context Corrie Van Zyl, Niels Momberg,Yogi Ferreira and Ray Jennings who have backed and supported me and Mike Cooper extensively.
What are you doing to ensure that your mindset and beliefs are aligned with your goals and that your mental systems set you up for success?
Squad: Aiden Markram (capt), Bradley Bopp, Corbin Bosch, Driaan Bruwer, Kirwin Christoffels, Justin Dill, Clyde Fortuin, Bradley Dial, Sibonelo Makhanya, Greg Oldfield, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Ngazi Sigwili, Jason Smith, Yaseen Valli
We are delighted to announce that our 2008 best-selling book, “In the zone with South Africa’s sports heroes” is now available on Amazon – click Here for the link
Raising Talent is also available on Amazon, click Here for the link to learn more about the Raising Talent system.
Thanks once again for all your support.