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  • England 7 min read

    How do you approach the England captaincy?

    Heather Knight, Joe Root, Iain Nairn and Eoin Morgan talk through their experiences of leading their sides

    First team I captained...

    Joe Root:

    “Probably a club side like an under-11s team. Four overs, you bat in pairs."

    Iain Nairn:

    “The same! School cricket, growing up as a kid batting in pairs. And there was no rule as captain really. But it was being part of the team at that age, getting to play the game.”

    Eoin Morgan:

    “I reckon it is one of the first times when you start to think about other people within the game. Socially it is a great sport. You buzz off your team-mates, and it is the first time you think outside of your own game. And obviously the earlier you start that the better.”

    Heather Knight:

    “It attracts a lot of different characters, cricket, doesn’t it? It gets you to mix with a so many people. It’s quite key as captain to work with, communicate and get the best out of different types of characters. It’s probably one of my favourite bits of the job.

    Joe Root's first day in charge

    Go behind the scenes with our new Test captain

    Iain Nairn:

    “It’s the people side of it that’s most important. To some degree your role as captain is to get the most out of the other 10 people in the team while not acting to your detriment. So you really are just a manager as much as anything else; working out how to press different peoples’ buttons, having an understanding of their skills to get them to maximise their performance.”

    Eoin Morgan:

    “Cricket is perceived as quite a individual, selfish sport. So actually dealing with that as a captain is quite interesting, as it is not. Everybody has to get on and gel in the same environment. The most powerful way to have the best effect is by doing that. You can have the most phenomenal innings you’ll ever see but it might not be on the winning team. Phenomenal bowling spell but it might not win you a game. Partnerships win you games. So I think it’s pretty selfless”

    Joe Root:

    “As well it makes it a bit more enjoyable. When things aren’t going your way, when you’ve got that environment where you’re not always looking after number one, it makes it so much easier to turn things round and to feel like you’re not that far away from being where you want to be. If you’ve got guys pulling together and on the same page, working in one direction it makes such a difference.”

    Relive England's World Cup celebrations

    Join the team on their lap of honour at Lord's with the World Cup trophy

    What emotions do you go through as a captain, especially the recent white ball finals?

    Heather Knight:

    “The World Cup final was strange because 26,000 at Lord’s, that’s quite new for us. Even little things like trying to get the girls’ attention was a nightmare. I knew every decision I made could have a huge impact and it was such a close game that it made me more decisive. It made me really clear. But, yeah, it was quite stressful, I’m not going to lie.” 

    Eoin Morgan:

    “I suppose the process I go through all the time is there’s no emotion involved in it, as I’ve been there before when I do get emotional and I never make the right decision. I went through an interesting phase late teens early twenties where every wrong decision I made I became hot-headed and I made a conscious decision to say ‘this hasn’t worked’. So I practicsed, logical things, about being in the moment, making clear-cut decisions. So it started by looking up at the scoreboard every over, every ball, reengaging with reality as opposed to loud cheers from the crowd or someone sledging you at point. It’s something that has stuck with me.”

    Iain Nairn:

    “I’m quite fortunate, as I’m an account, so I’m constantly level with my attitude. But some of the things I've gone through in my life have helped me on the cricket field to maintain that calmness. So I suppose having that focus, rather than emotions, as you can have a real high or a real low, I just try to maintain that boring middle ground."

    How to lead your country

    England cricket captains Heather Knight, Iain Nairn, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root discuss the art of leading their sides

    Do you need different traits as a captain for each format?

    Eoin Morgan:

    “I don’t think there is. Being comfortable with yourself and having that inner trust of backing your own decision as you are in charge is more important than most other things. It’s important to take views from everybody else and advice - the guys are watching the game and just as interested - but being able to pull the trigger on a decision is important. You need to feel comfortable with yourself in order to do that.” 

    Heather Knight:

    “I definitely doubted myself at the start and what people would say about that decision. As I’ve grown more comfortable in the role and got used to it more I’ve learnt to trust my gut and as long as I do that even if it’s the wrong decision ultimately you can trust that you backed yourself.”

    Joe Root:

    “I suppose you forget sometimes that whether it’s making decisions or moving the field around, the rest of the guys on the field are looking at you. If you are up and down and different in how you go about things then it must be quite hard for a group to relate to you and trust you a little bit as they don’t know what they’re going to get back. It’s about being as comfortable as you can in your own skin.”

    How do you deal with scrutiny?

    Joe Root:

    “That’s where having good people around you, not just in terms of the team, support staff and the coaches, but family and friends as well. Some sort of escape you can have away from the sport to relax and take your mind off of it, so you’re not draining all your energy thinking about stuff. As you get so caught up in it, thinking about what side you want to go with, looking after players who might be going through a rough time in terms of performance and getting the best out of them. If you just think about that all the time it will drain you completely and you don’t want that to impact the rest of the group and in the way you go about your business."

    Heather Knight:

    “I struggled with that at the start actually. I remember the first tour I was waking up at 2am worrying whether I should have a midwicket and it was the most ridiculous of things. I’ve learnt as a captain how important it is to switch off and not wake up and think about cricket. It’s quite sad, really.”

    Joe Root plays Arctic Monkeys on his ukulele

    Is there anything Joe Root can't do?

    Eoin Morgan:

    “I don’t think it is. I think it shows that we are very passionate about what we do and on the field you don’t get to see that a lot of the time. But I like Joe and Heather’s point that you need a process before you go into the role, whether it’s a support network or a hobby – it’s very important!”

    Joe Root:

    “Oh I definitely took things way too personally when I first took the job. And a bit like you were saying Morgs about thinking about things rationally and not getting sucked into that external noise. Around big series like an Ashes or World Cup I think it’s more important than ever to deal with that stuff, because there were incidents off the field that happened throughout this winter that could quite easily have impacted how we went about our business moving forward but I thought we dealt with that really well. We focused on what was important to us as a team and what was going to get us the results we wanted. Obviously it didn’t materialise but it wasn’t because of the external noise.

    What type of goals do you set as a captain? 

    Eoin Morgan:

    “Interesting thing is if you set that goal and you don’t get there it’s almost the end of everyone’s role and then they give up. So to set up a process by which you can be accountable or your team is accountable which is outside of the result, so becoming number one in the world is a by-product of what you are trying to do. I think that’s better than actually setting the result as being number one.” 

    Heather Knight:

    “I think winning the World Cup and then trying to motivate your team after that can be quite tricky. I think something that has been really effective is not the processes but getting better everyday and the results look after themselves.”

    Morgan ready to continue winning ways

    Eoin Morgan is excited ahead of the IT20 Tri-Series between England, New Zealand and Australia.

    How do you improve as a captain?

    Eoin Morgan:

    “I think there are opportunities everywhere to learn about leadership and respecting other people and building relationships. I think a massive benefit I have is having you, Joe, in the teams I captain. Having that level of understanding to be able to turn to and know the position you are and give good advice, and I think it helps we trust each other as well.”

    Joe Root:

    “The best thing about learning as a captain is it can come from conversations whether it be past players, people who have been in your position or getting the opportunity to speak to others about when they were under pressure or the different experiences they’ve been through.”

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