Lessons from IPL: Do Bad Boys Prosper?

From Harbhajan Singh to Dale Steyn, IPL 2012 has been littered with examples of cricketers pushing the Spirit of Cricket to its limits. The offenders will say it’s just passion over-spilling, but do you need a bad boy to succeed at your level?

The example of Harbhajan Singh is a good one to examine. The Mumbai Indian’s skipper argued for several minutes with the umpire, eventually forcing him to review his decision.

In this situation, the review found out that the batsman was out and the decision was reversed. The bad boys were vindicated because the correct decision was eventually made. They didn’t escape censure after the match, but by then the work had been done anyway.

We have all seen similar behaviour at club, school and academy level too. Some personalities are fired up so much by the heat of battle that they can forget what is acceptable.

Playing with passion is an important part of cricketing success. Bowlers especially need to get “fired up”. It’s a well known sport psychology phenomenon called the Inverted U Theory:

Here you can see there is an optimum point of arousal (or how fired up you are) that leads to maximum performance.

But you can also see that if you get too motivated – too passionate – you lose performance. So there is certainly a strong case for making the opposition tut at your naughty acts.

Making the most of bad boys

What this graph doesn’t show is exactly how much arousal each individual needs. Someone with that “bad boy” personality will be pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour before they are at their best performance.

Different personalities have no need to go as far.

It’s up to you to identify how fired up you need to get to perform. If you are of the bad boy personality you will find yourself getting into trouble to get to your best game. For me this is better than accepting the alternative of behaving perfectly and playing poorly.

Of course, this doesn’t excuse bad behaviour. Most people don’t need to see off the batsman by pointing to the dug out. We all know where the line is and you can be a world-class player without ever being ill-mannered.

So be mindful of your actions. Get your arousal to the right level and avoid bad behaviour as much as you can.

But if you or one of your team-mates is a bad boy that gets results then perhaps you can cut him some slack. He may just keep the whole side playing with passion. 

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