It is time we seek excellence again
Stabroek News
January 29, 2002

Dear Editor,

The month of January saw Australia completely destroy South Africa in a three test sweep of a strong and very proud South African cricket team. The difference was a commitment to excellence by the Australian team. This excellence could be broken down into six broad areas: leadership, technical skills, knowledge of the game, discipline, coaching and courage.

Steve Waugh provided far superior leadership to Shaun Pollock because Steve Waugh was focused on winning while Shaun Pollock was focused on not losing. Just as important, the Australians (press, public and cricket authorities) weakened Pollock through psychological warfare. This warfare was relentless and was bold and subtle.

In the area of technical skills, although both teams are filled with skilled cricketers, the Australians combined their wider knowledge of the game (not that the South Africans aren't knowledgeable) to provide superior performances. As I watched this series, I could tell you the strengths and weaknesses of every South African batsman and bowler. Australian commentators had and presented a wide variety of charts including where each South African batsman scored runs during their last several innings; what percentage of time at the crease they played forward, backward or didn't move; their strokes against spinners versus fast bowlers; their comfort and discomfort zones; which bowler got them out the most often; how they usually got out caught, bowled, stumped or run out and which batsman hated to be crowded while others welcomed it.

This knowledge of the game extended to bowlers also. For instance, I can tell you Brett Lee's first ball is usually his slowest and contributes to 40% of the runs scored off him. He is also most likely to get you out with the 4th or 5th ball. He gives up most of his runs on the leg side and down to the third man position.

The Australians also badly beat the South Africans in discipline and coaching. It was clear that there was a coordinated strategy to get each South African batsman out. Each bowler who was used understood the game plan: where to bowl the ball, why the field was as set. Discipline was extraordinary on the part of the Australian side. Regardless of whether it was the first over, 5th over or 10th over,...the Australians stuck with their plan.

The result was a 3 test wipe out. An extraordinary result given South Africa's strength and their destruction of the West Indies, Zimbabwe and India within the last year.

The final element in the excellence was the courage of the Australians. They played to win and not to avoid losing. They took calculated risks. They experimented when things weren't going as planned.

I hope the West Indies cricket team learns from the Australians. We have poor leadership (starting with the controversy over Hooper's captaincy) raw but unpolished technical skills, extremely poor knowledge of the game especially when it comes to other teams' individual and collective strengths, our discipline is terrible and so is our commitment to excellence. Coaching ......what coaching? Courage?

In Guyana... we have also lost our quest for excellence. Globally, Guyana has always been known for the excellence of its human resources. During my years at Queens College, we thrived on it because of people like Pryor Jonas, Eddie London, Lynette Dolphin, Miss Akai, Messrs. Insanally, Yansen, Robinson, Wishart, Barker, Perry, Isaacs etc.

Pryor Jonas was the leader. He made excellence the essence of his tenure at Queen's College. If you came one minute after four when you were supposed to be there at four you didn't get the equipment or you didn't play. End of the matter. He stressed discipline, commitment, hard work, respect, knowledge of the game and courage. For us mediocrity didn't and couldn't exist. For Pryor Jonas..."better" was the enemy of "good" and "excellence" was the enemy of better.

I have never publicly saluted Pryor Jonas as one of QC's hero but he is. He certainly was and still is to the likes of Aaron, Cheddi, Clarke, Christopher, Phillips name a few.

We in Guyana have lost our quest for excellence. We encourage , nurture, celebrate, reward and accept mediocrity.

Mediocrity is widespread in our political system, judiciary, governance, civil society, sporting and business lives.

We lack the will to fight corruption, racial injustice, crime, poverty. We want democracy, but are unwilling to take leadership in creating and in demanding it. We lack the honesty, commitment, courage, discipline, technical skills and knowledge to fight for it. But we complain about it everyday and in every way and to everyone.

It is time we Guyanese again ardently seek excellence.

Seeking and practicing Excellence is truly the beginning of sustainable development in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Eric Phillips