Root Cause: Gen Y

I had an unexpected encounter yesterday which makes for interesting relating.  I went along with my wife to view a second hand lounge which had been advertised on Gumtree.  That’s not the interesting bit.  On the way out, I glanced into the office and blow me down if I didn’t spy a Baggy Green in a glass case.  That’s not something you see every day.  So I told my wife.  She mentioned this to the owner of the longue.  I’m much too shy and wouldn’t have said anything.  To cut a long story short, the Baggy Green had belonged to Glenn McGrath and I was in the house of Kevin Chevell.

This is not going to be an article about Kev but I need to give a little background.  I must admit that I had momentarily forgotten who Kev Chevell is but it all came quickly back once explained.  Kev Chevell was both Mark Taylor and Glenn McGrath’s personal trainer.  I have read Tubby’s autobiography (“Time to Declare”) and I did remember a whole chapter dedicated to Tubby’s physical renaissance and that was all about Kev.  Yes, there was a time when Tubby was not tubby.  This was before the 1997-98 season, after the “Great Slump”.   In 1998, Taylor carried the bat against South Africa (169*) and later in the year scored the 334 not out against Pakistan.

It was a similar story for McGrath but more so.  Taylor had an “on off” association with Chevell over many years but McGrath had a much closer relationship and gives Kev much credit for his success.  Hence the very significant gift of his Baggy Green.  I will get back to this theme presently.

Kev and I, and my wife and Kev’s wife had a right good chat about cricket.  I found this very useful as I was interested in validating a few of my own opinions, which I have aired in recent weeks.   Things such as the rotation policy is bollocks, right?  Bowlers need to be doing more work, not less, right?  The homework episode was ridiculous, yes?  Kev agreed with all of these things.

I asked if a certain, young, fairly local, one-Test wonder had been to see him.  He said no and that he probably wouldn’t – the young man wouldn’t want to do the work.  At this point I was on the verge of an epiphany.   I asked if this was indicative that the bowler was Gen Y.

Kev then stated something that should have been obvious to me, which has been right before my very eyes but I had not seen.  The current problem with the team is Gen Y – it now comprises only members of Generation Y .   When Michael Clarke entered the Australian cricket team in 2004, Australian cricket joined the Generation Y.  Over the next (almost) ten years, all the other guys retired and leaving, you guessed it, a team of “gen-y”ers.  When Michael Hussey retired, it was obvious to all that his experience would be missed and that Clarke was on is own but I admit, I did not see the deeper sociological implications.

I am not going to say that all Gen Ys are lazy.  Not by a long shot.  But there is some truth in all of those Gen Y jokes.  Much truth.  The captain himself seems to be maturing into a fine citizen and leader.  He has his act together and there can be no questioning his  dedication and drive but it is interesting to note his start.  A century, a big century, in his very first Test.  Three Tests later, he took the third best (at the time) six wicket haul in history.  From his next Test, his first Test back home, another sparkling century.  It all came too easily for Clarke.  Then came the struggles, being dropped from the team and the long and bumpy road to the top.  Perhaps this is typical of any generation when something comes easily to a young man.  A boy king.

Now we have a team of boy kings and while Clarke may have his own act together it can be another thing to lead others through something you only experienced recently yourself.  Perhaps it is even hard to indentify those symptoms as problems.  Perhaps that is where Mickey Arthur comes in.  Not that I will ever agree with the way in which the homework scandal was handled by team management.

We now have a group of young men who are on big bucks, most of whom are yet to reach their potential.  Is this because they are not prepared to do the hard yards?  Perhaps this is at the root of the “Homework Scandal”.  It is hard to get to the bottom of the true situation because of the vague and euphemistic nature of communication from the Australian cricket team.   But one can glean some.  Here is a quote from Arthur: “I’ve not ever been in a position to doubt Shane Watson the person or Shane Watson the cricketer. Usman Khawaja is different. This will be the catalyst I think for Usman Khawaja to realise we’re pretty serious in the Australian cricket team.”

Talking to Kev Chevell, I got the impression that he is on the outer because he is seen as being “old school”.  I don’t think that is a fair assessment of Kev but it probably is of the situation.  Today’s coaches, doctors and conditioners are scientists and sports medicine specialists.  They are men of science – they fear no worldly terrors.  I wonder in all of this science whether they overlook common-bloody-sense.  They suppress instinct and misunderstand a sportsman’s mindset.  And the sad truth is, that CA and the selectors admit they don’t even know if the rotation policy is beneficial.  But it is the safe route.  The legally and politically safe route.

I suggest that technology is a big part of the problem.  In fact, it is technology ultimately, that has bred Gen Y characteristics.  There is no doubt that technology and Gen Y are intertwined.  While it is true that portable technology presents more distractions than ever known, I think that is the tip of the iceberg.  Gen Y has known nothing but instant gratification.

Since the industrial revolution, technological advances have changed all aspects of life.  It has furthered science, causing science and religion to separate (the earth is round, and it does in fact, go around the sun).  Its impact on primary industry and commerce has been profound.  It has even allowed governments to kill and destroy each other during war in ever more efficient, wholesale and violent ways.  In all areas of life, technology has an impact.

Technology is a driver for business.  It saves times, makes things more efficient and increases profit.  At a personal level, people in the Western World have more leisure time and more wealth and it is largely because of technology.  Is it possible that modern sports science is about achieving strength and fitness in the most efficient way?  Or to put it another way, by cutting corners.  Replacing good, old-fashioned hard work with perceived enlightened methods.

I once read this as the definition of a coach: The coach’s role is to make men do what they don’t want to do, to enable them to achieve the things they want to achieve.  That’s what Chevell does.   When he started training McGrath, McGrath was a weed.  He trained hard, lived with Chevell and was fed around the clock.  Chevell would wake McGrath, just like a newborn, for his 2 a.m. feed.  Whatever it takes.  Chevell commented that he didn’t use dietary supplements – if you eat the right food and drink and enough of it, that is all the fuel you need.  I get the impression, that like any niche occupation, that the sports medicine people try to make it more complicated than it is, to ensure that their job is necessary.

Early this year, I saw Mike Whitney interview Pat Cummins and the topic got onto the bowler rotation policy, fitness and injuries.  Whitney gave us his fitness regime from his playing days.  He ran at least 10 kilometres everyday, in the middle of the day, on the road.  He did that because that is what he had to do in a match.  He bowled in the heat of the day on rock hard surfaces.  Is that seen as too simplistic?  Not scientific enough?  Well, it makes sense.  Kev Chevell used similar approaches.  He used a lot more varied training methods but the approach was to make the athlete do things that were harder than they had to do in a match.  That was good for the mind and the body.  I just don’t see that happening today.

Hard work has worked in the past and there is no reason why it should not work today.  The cricketers’ bodies are physiologically the same and the game is the same.  There are some factors like travelling and playing more, and varied types of cricket but perhaps too much is made of that.  And I’m sorry to say, we didn’t buy Kev’s lounge.

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