Whilst England’s three day victory over Australia in the Third Ashes Test was encouraging for their chances of regaining the Ashes, and their start to the Fourth Test had been nothing short of incredible, the team are currently holders of an unfortunate accolade – England are now officially the most inconsistent team in the history of Test Match cricket, or as Stuart Broad admitted ‘“We are consistently the most inconsistent side” 1. Their run of seven successive wins and losses has resulted in public discussions surrounding their inconsistency, as well as alterations to their preparation for the Fourth Test at Trent Bridge this week. But what is it exactly that accounts for England’s inability to gain momentum and how can they ensure that their frustrating run does not stretch further in this week’s Test?
Given that truly high performing teams are rare, England would be encouraged to focus their discussions on five components that make up the High Performing Teams Framework:
- Team Mind
- Team Emotion
- Team Process
- Team Leadership
- Team Psychological Edge
Specifically, Team Psychological Edge is a concept comprising of team toughness and the ability to utilise psychological momentum. Given that mentally tough teams demonstrate high levels of motivation, focus, collective belief and the ability to handle and thrive on pressure 2, England’s new coach Trevor Bayliss may wish to ask his squad a series of questions, including:
- Are we clear about each other’s roles and role boundaries?
- Are we able to have ‘difficult conversations’ with one another?
- Do we coordinate and manage our workload?
- Do we encourage team members to take leadership responsibility in situations that play to their strengths?
- Do we have a collective belief in our ability to perform to high levels?
Within their responses, the coach could benefit from paying attention to two key facets that are likely to have influenced the team’s psychological momentum; confidence and self-efficacy. England’s failure to perform consistently may result from a lack of belief in their inability to maintain performance levels whilst ‘on a roll’, as well as being unable to manipulate the direction of momentum when suffering a downturn in standards 3. Failure to implement these skills during the Second Test at Lords, where they lost by 405 runs (the fourth heaviest defeat in England’s history), would suggest that the squad currently lack the psychological edge necessary to string together a series of wins.
Reflection such as this will not only give the squad a snapshot of the degree to which they are high performing, but also whether or not they have the psychological solidity to make the most of the opportunity that faces them. Without their spearhead James Anderson (missing due to injury), it is likely to be a difficult Test for a team that lacks experience, but England would be encouraged to learn from their previous mistakes and control those aspects of the High Performing Teams Framework that are likely to influence the result come Monday evening. Especially if they are to remove their tag as Test cricket’s most inconsistent team and regain the Ashes.
1 ‘The Ashes 2015: England can’t afford to let Australia off the hook again at Trent Bridge.’ Chris Stocks. Published 5th August 2015.
2 Jones, G. and Moorhouse, A. (2008). Developing Mental Toughness: Gold Medal Strategies for Transforming Your Business Performance. Oxford: Spring Hill.
3 White Paper - High Performing Teams: Introducing Lane4’s Framework of Team-Based Excellence. Kelly Walsh, Mark Gittins & Lindsay Shaw. Updated November 2012.