Thursday, March 29, 2012


In the recent NZ vs SA cricket series, two of the great all-rounders in the modern game were on show: Jacques Kallis and Daniel Vettori.

But how do you measure what it means to be a great all-rounder? A simple little formula works well: take the difference between their batting average and their bowling average. One thing this does is flatten out (a bit) the impact of the surface on which they play. So if the batting averages are a bit inflated because they play on flat wickets, then the bowling averages will be up a bit too - and the difference between the two retains some consistency.

So let's take the qualifying criterion to be 100 wickets and 1000 runs in the modern game. Here are the Top 21 all-rounders - and, interestingly, Kallis is first and Vettori is last on the list.

1. Jacques Kallis (SA)  +24.33
2. Gary Sobers (WI)  +23.75
3. Imran Khan (Pak)  +14.88
4. Keith Miller (Aus)  +14.00
5. Shaun Pollock (SA)  +9.20
6. Trevor Goddard (SA)  +8.24
7. Tony Grieg (Eng)  +8.23
8. Ian Botham (Eng)  +5.14
9. Richard Hadlee (NZ)  +4.87
10. Chris Cairns (NZ)  +4.13
11. Alan Davidson (Aus)  +4.06
12. Kapil Dev (Ind)  +1.41
13. Trevor Bailey (Eng)  +0.53
14. Irfan Pathan (Ind)  -0.69
15. Wasim Akram (Pak)  -0.98
16. Andrew Flintoff (Eng)  -1.01
17. Ray Lindwall (Aus)  -1.88
18. Malcolm Marshall (WI)  -2.09
19. Richie Benaud (Aus)  -2.58
20. Stuart Broad (Eng)  -3.02
21. Daniel Vettori (NZ)  -3.85

(a) We need to massage the figures a little further. Kallis and Sobers are way up there because they were such classy batsmen first and foremost, with batting averages in the upper 50s. Classically, the all-rounder fills the #7 spot in the line-up without that kind of average. So let's add one further criterion. What does the list look like if we say the batting average must be above 30 and the bowling average must be below 30? Both Kallis and Vettori drop off because neither one is a good enough bowler and the list looks like this (in order):

1. Imran Khan
2. Keith Miller
3. Shaun Pollock
4. Trevor Goddard
5. Ian Botham
6. Chris Cairns
7. Kapil Dev

So if I was looking for the best all-rounder to fill the #7 spot, this is the list to which I'd turn, with Imran Khan considered to be the greatest all-rounder to have played the game.

(b) The case of Australia is fascinating. There are three all-rounders mentioned above - and from overlapping eras some 50 years ago. They have dominated world cricket without world-class all-rounders. However if Shane Watson is able to progress to 1000/100 at his current rate he will enter the list at #5, between Keith Miller and Shaun Pollock.

(c) The top-ranked all-rounder in the world today is Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan, a great achievement in itself given Bangladesh's low ranking as a team. He is four wickets away from joining the 1000/100 club, at which point he will enter the list at #12, with a +3.32 score. Like Vettori, he is left-arm spinner who bats - and unlike probably every other NZ cricket fan, if I had the choice of either Shakib or Dan for my team, I'd pick Shakib every time.

nice chatting


PS - Here is a picture of Daniel Vettori to remind you of what he looked like when he was a really good Test bowler :). Sadly he is playing the wrong form of the game now, as he is a world-class ODI bowler. But if Glenn Turner is to be believed (and he is usually right), Vettori's eyes are on passing Hadlee's 431 wickets and joining Kapil Dev as the only members of the 400 wickets, 5000 run club. I hope it is not true. I have Vettori in my NZ team to win the World Cup in 2015, as that should be his focus now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Barby (my wife) was speaking with Gwennie (my mum)...

The subject was parenting. It is interesting how both our sets of parents have always been reluctant to talk about the secret of parenting. They'd run a mile before taking a seminar on the subject. I guess they feel the task is never over and that the grace of God plays such a significant role.

Anyhow on this occasion Barby pressed for a response. With grandchild #1 about to emerge, this was offered as a rationale and finally my mother relented enough to offer one word.

That's it?! Just one word?
Yes. Consistency.

My mind immediately jumped in two directions.
A conversation and an observation.

The conversation was about the most common flaw in Christian parenting. My offering was about parents who do not follow through with the ultimatums they give their kids, particularly little ones. The command comes. The warnings multiply. But eventually, rather than make a fuss, the child wins as the parent gives up. All love and no justice (a bit like peoples' view of God). As the title of the book expresses it, Love Wins - but is it really 'love' and will it prove to be really 'winning? I have my doubts. And yet the lack of follow through is so common. Four times out of five?! If they are to grow up to be secure, kids need boundaries made strong and clear from a young age. They need black and white for as long as possible. Today they are introduced to gray at far too early an age.

The observation is very recent. I was staying with a family. A little one was asked to eat her vegetables. She expressed the rebellion endemic to Adam's race. The parental request became an ultimatum. Then came the warnings. The stand-off went on for at least ten minutes. In a God-like way the time for grace passed finally and justice was enacted - the exile to the bedroom ensued (but not for seventy years). Justice wins, just as it needed to do. I sat and watched, delighted with what I had witnessed (and told them so). Two reasons. Firstly the parents won the battle - even with a guest in the house and maybe feeling a bit self-conscious about the family dynamic. Secondly the child revealed such a lovely strong will which, when it is broken and bent towards Jesus, will prove to be so valuable in his service. I am making it my business to pray that it will be so.

I reckon my mum is right.

nice chatting


Friday, March 23, 2012

saying thank you

'The first task of leadership is to say thank you'.

I could take you to the very place where a mentor said that to me. I took it to heart. Saying thank-you, with sincerity and frequency and creativity, became one of the first principles of leadership for me. I found it overlapped neatly with a conflation of my Grandma's wisdom hammered into me as a child:  'If you have something nice to say, say it ... it is not the thought that counts'. As a leader, I would lie awake at night thinking of creative days to say it. I loved finding ways to say it to people who hardly ever heard it. There were days when the phrase left my mouth a dozen or two times and although my people interaction is much less nowadays, I hope there are days when this is still true.

Sadly, in the last few weeks - mainly via email conversations from people battling with this area and the stray observation - I have been reminded yet again that 'the first task of followership is not to say thank-you' - or so it appears. Obviously, I can't be specific. How many pastors might have  prevailed for a little longer if people had mouthed those two simple words more frequently? How many younger people, finding their way in the world, might have received a turbo boost by these two monosyllabics? While it is evident elsewhere (of course), this is one of the worst parts of New Zealand culture. It seems to be linked to these lies people promulgate about 'big heads' and 'tall poppies' where we become so vigilant about anyone who might be starting to think too highly of them-selves, or get to high above other-selves ... and so often it prevents people from simply saying thank-you. As I move so much in other cultures now, this flaw back home seems to be seen more clearly.

And yes, I see it easily because in the various leadership roles I have had over the years (as much informally as formally, it must be said), this would be one of the more bruising parts for me. Managing the relative flows of saying it a dozen or two times a day (happily, unconditionally, authentically), and then not hearing it said to me at all for a dozen days at a time, was not something I found easy. But one of the coping mechanisms, as it often is, was to come back to grace. When we know we receive undeserved favour in such abundance, it is much easier to pass it on to others, even if just as a trickle and even without return. As they say, grace is amazing.

So, go on followers - find a leader in your life and mouth a 'thank' and a 'you' to them. It is not that difficult and it will do you both the world of good. And leaders? Take a good long look at those for whom you are responsible and feed them a diet of authentic 'thank-you's - regardless!

nice chatting


Thursday, March 08, 2012

chappell on culture and leadership

I was fascinated by this article on this morning. It reviews a new book by Greg Chappell where he criticises the Indian cricket team for its performance on the recent tour of Australia. In less than a day it has collected 245 comments and 652 'likes' on facebook. I will neither read the former nor do the latter - but try to think a few thoughts of my own.

The article has its fair share of typically brash Chappellian statements. While I give the advice better than I use it myself, I find myself often saying to people, "find the germ of truth in every criticism". Is there a germ of truth here? How does it apply across in other cultures?

1. Chappell questions whether India develops kids with mental toughness quite like they do in Australia.

"Test cricket for a lot of, not only India, a lot of subcontinent teams, I think it's pretty tough. And the challenge for Test cricket is, without the sort of grounding that we [Australians] had as kids, Test cricket is too hard. It's very demanding mentally, physically and emotionally."

That is such a big call.

2. Chappell questions whether Indian culture is able to create leaders who are able to build teams.

"The culture is very different, it's not a team culture," Chappell said. "They lack leaders in the team because they are not trained to be leaders. From an early age, their parents make all the decisions, their schoolteachers make their decisions, their cricket coaches make the decisions."

That is another big call.

3. I spend a lot of time thinking about Aussies and Indians. With India the mind often turns to the impact of the fatalism and karma inherent to the Hindu worldview. How does that leak out into life in all its fullness - because it will and it does? Could Chappell have a point? With Australia I am often struck by how slow they have been to address their issues with their indigenous people. They are probably 40 years behind New Zealand on this one. This slowness makes them susceptible to the occasional, quite stunning, outburst of racist comment in media and popular culture. Could Chappell be guilty of this?

4. I sense a wonderful study on cross-cultural leadership beckoning with the reading of John Wright's book on his time as the massively successful coach of the Indian cricket team alongside this book of Greg Chappell's which will reflect at some point (I assume) on his own unmitigated failure as the coach of India. The way Wright made that team hum is a case study in facilitative leadership. One of the best sports books I have ever read.

I am currently in India hanging out with students. Today - just today - I wish I was down the corridor chatting with those talking about leadership, rather than the preaching conversation which is meant to be my focus. What a great time we'd have with Chappell.

nice chatting