Much has been written about the England cricket team’s historic and somewhat controversial inaugural World Cup win, including on the role of diversity in the winning squad.
But the real untold story here is actually not about diversity.
It’s about what happens when you assemble a high-performing team who were truly appointed on merit and importantly, the role of the leader in creating the right environment of inclusion for the diversity in that team to flourish.
Choosing teams on merit
Sport is probably one of the few professions where the leadership team is almost always appointed purely on merit. Only the best make it to the top of the game, you don’t get promoted based on being in ‘in the club’ or on the perception that you are the ‘right fit’ to be a leader. It’s all about performance. But assembling a team of high performers is one thing. Getting them to perform together is another.
What the English cricket team have demonstrated is their ability to embrace their differences as strengths and to align around a common purpose despite those differences in religious beliefs, cultures and perspectives. Let’s have a look at that winning team’s cultural makeup: It includes two England-born Muslims of Pakistani origins; two players born and raised in South Africa; one player from Barbados, one from New Zealand, eight born in England, and an Irish Catholic Captain.
The way that the Irish-born English Cricket Team Captain Eoin Morgan used this difference to settle his troops in a high-pressure moment in the World Cup final speaks volumes about the level of trust, inclusion and respect within the team.
When asked at the post-final conference whether the ‘luck of the Irish’ got England across the line in their tied final with New Zealand, Morgan said: “I spoke to Adil Rashid (spin-bowler), he said Allah was definitely with us. I said ‘we had the rub of the green’. It actually epitomises our team. It has quite diverse backgrounds and cultures . . . to actually find humour in the situation that we were in at the time was pretty cool.”