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‘Winning culture a matter of trust and forgiveness’

7 January 2011

Quite outside my normal habits,  I have been reading The Times this week.  This is  because I am concerned about child sexual exploitation, which was the subject of its  front page (5 Jan) article, a well-researched  and provocative piece by Andrew Norfolk.    I may write more about this subject in another blog soon.   So it is purely a happy accident that I read the paper today, 7 January and found something I was not looking for and never expected to find.  In the  many pages celebrating England’s success in the Ashes, I came across one quite extraordinary piece by Simon Barnes.  Entitled ‘Winning culture a matter of trust and forgiveness’ it is a sharp, eloquent and delightful secular sermon. 

Barnes says that the secret of England’s success was that teams are about trust.  ‘You may bat and bowl with the hands of men and angels, but without trust, you are nothing’ – do you hear the nice echo there of I Corinthians 13. 1ff:  If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…I am nothing? 

Then he goes on, ‘An essential aspect of trust is forgiveness.  Without the possibility of forgiveness, no team can last long: ask any marriage counsellor.   Every member of this victorious England side knows that when they err, the possibility of forgiveness exists.  A good number have needed forgiving, and are the better for having been forgiven.’

Paul Collingwood is the prime example, the extreme test case of the thesis.  But then Barnes shows how it has been true for others, that they have been persevered with, trusted and forgiven.  Alistair Cook – even he needed forgiveness to keep his place through last summer; Andrew Strauss (dropped 2007);  Pietersen repeatedly, but it is worth it – he ‘fails to realise that there is an Other People element in most forms of life, especially team sport’ but teams need to accommodate and trust ‘temperamental artists’.   The list goes on:  Matt Prior, James Anderson, Graeme Swann. Steve Finn – each analysed in terms of the way trusting, forgiving, persevering has borne, or will bear,  fruit in building a winning team. 

All this is in contrast with the ‘traditional England set-up’  when the selectors believed ruthlessness made for a better team.  Then, when cricketers lost form, they were ‘almost always’ dropped.  Players ‘knew that the priority in life was holding on to your place.  Winning matches was secondary….But the present carefully tended culture of forgiveness has allowed player after player to concentrate on wider issues than self.’ 

This is beautiful writing, sharp thinking,  wise spirit,  clear direction for living. 

Need we say more?

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