30 years ago, Headingly Yorkshire, Ian Botham pulled off the most spectacular victory in cricket test history.
BBC’s Sir Ian Botham: The Legend of the 1981 Ashes was a great way to reminisce about the events of that match and that season.
Botham was a hero, a strong determined man of outstanding natural ability. He had become a hero in the nation’s sporting mind only to see the establishment nearly wreck his record. What did they do?
They made him captain. Our record with nurturing talent in recent years has not been great, but this was a disaster. What I didn’t know was that Ian, now Sir Ian, hadn’t even captained his county side of Somerset.
It’s a lesson in how not to do things. Botham was a great player. captaincy was a great sporting accolade and it must have been a huge wrench to resign it, but he did just that.
Suddenly Botham was back on track. He was able to play again, his mind uncluttered with the subtleties of leadership. The burden of his losing streak was lifted.
He was back in form. His commanding century at that Test pulled England back from the brink of defeat. His morale-boosting performance of course lifted the team.
Another hero, legendary pace bowler Bob Willis was fired up. He tore into the old enemy at cricket, Australia, and finished them off.
The home of cricket is said to be Lords, and a great ground it is too. But a few weeks earlier the stuffy members had totally blanked Botham after he scored a couple of ducks.
The question I still ask is how did we mismanage this immense man so badly? Those po faces tell a story. I’ve been in that famous pavilion and sat amongst its members. Grumpy is an over-estimate of the privileged gloom you experience there.
Give me the regular stands where the people seem to appreciate the hero much more. And yet it is the pavilion from whence the leadership should come.
Spot talent, nurture it, rein it in a little from time to time, don’t just dump it in at the deep end of captaincy. It’s a bit like making the best salesman the managing director.
In the depths of resignation lay the seeds of recovery. England won the match and aided by Botham’s re-found form, won the series.
Sporting success can’t go on forever even for Botham. He faced new and arguably more difficult foes in the shape of unwanted media attention.
Like a true thoroughbred he found a new way to win for his people. This time it was by walking the length and breadth of the country raising money for Leukaemia Research. He was knighted for his work.
Botham bored easily. His captain Mike Brierley knew how to manage him, thank goodness.
How often have we overlooked talent, mistaken frustration for delinquency or just turned our noses up and looked away when the genius misfires?
Those of us in leadership need to take a long hard look at how we do things. And raise our game.
Maybe in 30 years time we can tell our children of the people we led and the great things they did!