England’s Mike Brearley, considered one of the greatest captains in cricket history, delivered a thought-provoking speech at the 11th Don Bradman Oration in Melbourne on Wednesday night.
The 71-year-old Brearley had limited success as a top order bat for England in the mid-70s and early 80s — he made 1442 runs at 22.88 from 39 Tests.
Yet the scholarly cricketer, who graduated from Cambridge, developed into one of the most influential skippers by blending his tactical nous with deep understanding of psychology.
Here are excerpts from his speech:
On sledging: There is, I think, no need for sledging. In my experience, the great West Indian fast bowlers said nothing to the batsman on the field. One might say they had no need to, first because of their superlative ability, but second because they were quite able to convey menace by eye contact and strut.
The rise of Calypso men: What has been so remarkable about the rise of West Indian cricket — a rise that culminated in their extraordinary period of world dominance during the 1970s and ‘80s — is that people who had been enslaved and then released into a world of prejudice, arrogance and power, with many of these arrangements extending into cricket, should have been so patient, so keen to learn, so open to values that they found in this colonial game.
Role models for West Indies: Self-disparagement is one consequence of racial and other kinds of trauma, yet cricketers like the Constantines (father and son), George Headley and Frank Worrell were able, through their exploits and attitudes, to build up the self-respect of their fellows, so that later generations would be stronger, more determined, more in touch with their proper pride.
It seems to me that the West Indians were able to be humble (in the sense of knowing they had a lot to learn) without being abject, and proud without being arrogant.