It was quite a summer for Scottish cricket. A historic victory over England showed that cricket is not just a game for those below Hadrian's Wall.
CricViz wrote a fabulous article explaining how it was done. One line stood out:
“Scotland won because of the way they adapted to the extremely tough bowling conditions... Coetzer’s men could easily have folded. Yet impressively, they kept their heads, and changed what was going wrong. In the first 10 overs, they’d bowled 37% short balls, trying to dig the ball hard into the surface in order to find some life – but that didn’t work... However, in the next 10 overs, Scotland switched things up. They bowled just 17% short balls, half of what they’d sent down previously, and England’s run-rate dropped”
It’s clear Scotland adapted their plan on the fly. When bouncers failed they switched. Seems simple enough, but it’s astounding to think someone had the presence of mind and confidence to make this change during the biggest game in years.
I wonder who that was.
Because whoever it was, they broke with their programming!
As coaches we tend to want to help players by telling them how to do things. We make the plans and tell them to stick to their roles and strengths. It’s the fastest way to success, but it also breeds coach dependant players who are not confident to adapt. I’m certain every player in that Scotland team had loads of coaches who coached them in that way growing up. Programmed to obey the guru.
Had this method been deployed against England, a thrashing was on the cards. The “best” plan would have been fearfully played out and everyone would have marvelled at Bairstow’s match-winning innings. Business as usual for the home nations.
Yet someone stood up out there.
Someone (Coetzer? Watt?) made a fast, clear decision in the moment when their mind was racing. Then everyone went with it. Someone changed the tempo of the match. Someone gave Scotland the glimmer they needed.
Subsequently, I have worked with a couple of the key people in that game. Most notably Calum MacCleod, Ritchie Berrington and Coach Grant Bradburn. I have no inside knowledge of what went on that day, but seeing those guys work from the edges I have seen glimpses. Bradburn created an environment when players were trusted to do the best they could in the moment, rather that lean on the sage advice of guru coaches.
I’d like to think that atmosphere of trust allowed someone to take that huge decision in the moment.
And it payed off.
The next time it may not of course. The next time sticking to Plan A will work better, but the point is this; even in high stakes moments, having players who trust their gut and commit to their decisions fully is far more helpful than the alternative.