Sunday 21 October 2018

Guest Review: The Art of Captaincy By Mike Brearley

My Sunday series of sport and history guest reviews has been on hold for a little while but now i'ts back! So here's something a little different for you today. 

Mike Brearley played cricket for Middlesex and England. He captained Middlesex from 1971 to 1982, during which time they won the County Championship four times and the Gillette one day cup competition twice. He made his Test debut for England in 1976, and captained the national side during two periods, the first from 1977 to 1980 and the second in 1981. On both occasions, he took over the captaincy under difficult circumstances. The first time was when Tony Greig was stripped of the captaincy as a result of his connection with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. The second occasion  followed Ian Botham's resignation from the captaincy in 1981 after the first two Tests in an Ashes series against Australia. Overall, Mike Brearley's record as captain of England in 31 Test matches was 18 won and 4 lost. Perhaps his most notable achievement was in turning around England's fortunes in the Ashes series in 1981. After the first two matches under Ian Botham's captaincy, Australia were 1-0 up in the series. Under Brearley, England went on to win three of the remaining matches, to take the series 3-1. The most remarkable performance came in the third Test at Headingley, thanks to outstanding performances in the second innings with the bat by Ian Botham and with the ball by Bob Willis, when England fought back from a seemingly hopeless position to win the match. Mike Brearley is considered to have been one of England's best captains. When he finished playing, he pursued a career in psychoanalysis.

In this book, Mike Brearley discusses all the aspects of captaincy, from organising pre-season training, team selection, tactics, motivation and discipline. Throughout, there are numerous examples and anecdotes, mainly garnered from the author's own experiences of his playing days with Middlesex and England. The book was published in 1985, so it is interesting to see what changes in the game have occurred since then. In particular, the physical training and conditioning of the players is a lot more intense nowadays, and more limited overs cricket is played, especially since the advent of 20 overs a side cricket.

This book will provide a fascinating insight into the thought processes of a captain and will appeal to any cricket enthusiast. However, I think the book also has relevance for managers in any organisation in that it deals with what it takes to get the best out of people and to mould a group of individuals with different skills into a cohesive team. One anecdote that I enjoyed especially was the story of a letter that the author received on being recalled to the England captaincy in 1981, which quoted an old Italian proverb: "if you want to know that a fish is bad look at its head". I think there is a lot of truth in that statement.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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