Lloyd and the Art of Leadership
Fri, Jan 9, '04
Some years ago now, I won the Oakey State High School grade 9 social sciences prize. They say the field wasn't overly strong that year. Still, I was thrilled to be given The Hapless Hookers, Frank Tyson's account of the 1975-76 West Indies tour of Australia. A photo of Clive Hubert Lloyd adorns the cover. The Big Cat, resplendent in white floppy and glasses, so as to look like an African entomologist, has just belted D. K. Lillee to the backward square-leg boundary.
I liked Clive Lloyd. The year before, I had watched the whole of the World Cup final, the first time I had ever stayed up all night (then a decadent act for which I felt rather guilty). His was a magnificent performance against the Australians: a century and then a wicket in a dozen fluid overs. He led the way.
Clive and I progressed in our chosen fields: he in cricket, as one of the great captains, and me as a failing history student with a preference for cask wine and speculative social analysis.
But I was starting to realise that sport was about a lot more than bodies and bats and balls. I played and watched a lot of sport. Sport made me think about things. Watching Clive Lloyd made me think about calmness and about leaders.
These days, Lloyd is an International Cricket Council match referee. This past week, he has been in Melbourne. Last night, he was on duty at the MCG. In the week the Australian cricket captain resigned, it seemed the ideal time for a bloke with a dodgy history degree to find out some of the West Indian's ideas about leadership.
When you meet Clive Lloyd, you notice that, even when opening a hotel room door, he still moves in simple, harmonic motion: his hands make perfect pendulum arcs. He is initially reserved but, as he talks about things that have been important to him, he lets you inside.
It becomes clear that he has been a keen observer of people; perhaps more than others, as his father died when he was 12. As important as cricket people were in his development as a leader, he looked beyond the game. "I used to admire a lot of political leaders," he remembers. "I admired people like Muhammad Ali. He was inspiring. I read books by past captains. I took a lot from my captain (at Demerara Cricket Club), Fred Wills, who was a QC. I used to go and watch him perform in court. I wanted to be a lawyer. And the way he used to bring the team together with drinks and food and making us sit. I liked how he would stay back and discuss the game. I learnt a lot from him because he was a very bright, very intelligent person."
Lloyd's first Test was against India, under Garry Sobers, in Bombay in December 1966. "I suppose Garry was quite inventive," he recalls. "He always liked to have a result, so (he was) a very positive captain. He led by example: bowled, batted and he fielded quite well." There were not a lot of team discussions. A word here and there at the nets, or from a roommate, and Sobers was most approachable.
He also played under Rohan Kanhai and at Lancashire under Jack Bond, who demanded a high level of professionalism. Appointed West Indies captain in 1974-75, Lloyd enjoyed immediate success, beating the Indians in India, 3-2. Then the 1975 World Cup. But there were lessons learnt as a hapless hooker in the 5-1 series loss in Australia the following summer. Lloyd called in the heavy artillery: an aggressive pace attack. And discipline in all elements of the game.
A West Indian captain juggles other issues as well. "We are different cultures and different people, spread far and wide," Lloyd explains. "It's not like Australia. To get them to play together is not easy. I took a lot from what Frank Worrell did. I more or less tried to continue his work. He got guys from different islands to room together rather than guys from the same island. But the first thing is to get the trust of the players. They grew to trust me. They knew that whatever I said or did was for the benefit of the team and not for me. Trust is very important."
Lloyd made the office of captain paramount. He took total responsibility. And that model, he believes, continues to work well in contemporary cricket. "The captain has to be strong. He has to show that steely resolve. He's got to be the person to show the way in every aspect. When he speaks, when he bats, if he's a bowler, in team selection, he's got to be positive."
It wasn't always easy. "If they are not enamoured with you as a captain, that's when you have got to be skilful. That's the importance of a captain, to get the best from your players - even (those) who are not happy with the situation."
Lloyd retired after leading the team to a 3-1 victory in Australia in 1984-85. At the time, West Indians were concerned that the departure of such a patriarchal figure could prove disastrous. In fact, the decline of West Indian cricket didn't begin until almost a decade later.
"Viv (Richards) had a good team. He was a very strong leader. He didn't suffer fools gladly. They had a good run," Lloyd explains. "Then (Richie) Richardson took over and there was a slight slide and we didn't recognise it and it turned into a slump. What happened is that because we always had great cricketers, the West Indies thought that it would just happen. So we didn't create a system."
With Steve Waugh's retirement, Australia is in a similar position to the West Indies in 1985. Lloyd is optimistic. "Australia doesn't suffer from the same thing the West Indies suffers from," he says. "Australia is a very rich country. They have all the things in place. There is an academy. They are not short of people to give impetus to the winning attitude. They know exactly what is needed - in all aspects of cricket. I doubt whether there will be a problem."
But Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer both attribute their late blooming to Waugh. What changes when the source of the confidence moves on? "I doubt whether it will affect those players," Lloyd argues. "They have the same respect for Ricky Ponting. They play under him in the one-day internationals. He has the same type of attitudes. He leads by example. He seems to be a strong character. I doubt whether there should be a great change."
Losing outstanding players to retirement may prove to be a more formidable problem. "That is when Ricky Ponting is going to be judged," Lloyd says. "You can't just have great players all of the time. When you bring in new players, it is important that you get everything right, that they know that they are joining a unit that is really strong in all aspects, mentally and physically."
There are many ways of understanding, and Clive Lloyd seems to have found his through cricket: a path to wisdom lit by the beacon of his own experience. But I have built sufficiently on the foundation of grade 9 social science to know that wisdom also comes from four big, angry fast bowlers bounding in all day. The Big Cat just had to work out how to get the best from them.
* This article first appeared in the Australia's Melbourne Age newspaper.