Down at the cricket ground this weekend I bumped into John Inverarity, who is now Chairman of Selectors to the national cricket team. I was luck to get to know John in a variety of past organisations, and he is one of the most humble, decent and brilliant leaders you will ever come across.
Many still speak in hushed tones of his leadership of the four time Sheffield Shield winning West Australian cricket teams of the 1970s, and of one particular game (the Gillette Cup ‘Miracle Match’ in 1976) where he marshalled his troops to take down a team with Viv Richards (then captain of the all conquering West Indies team) defending just 77. Never a ‘great’ player himself, he nonetheless could manage the huge egos and talents of Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Kim Hughes and others, who deeply respected him.
When I got to know John, his cricket playing days were over, but you could still witness his briliant leadership skills, his ‘managing my walking around’ and firm yet friendly manner. He once gave me the shortest motivational speech I have ever heard – in fact it contained only one word (which was the department I headed). He sat down next to me, fixed me with a firm gaze, and then moved his hand firmly up in the air. Nothing more to be said – he wanted me to raise the standards. That was it. Message received and understood!
So I was interested to see what he thought about his new job selecting the national cricket team, which had slipped from 1st to 5th place in the test rankings over the past two years. A few months ago, just before he took over, they were dismissed for 47, and in only his second test, had lost a test match to New Zealand – the ultimate ignominy. Since then though, they had blitzed the Indian team (#2 in the world) at home. Typically thoughtful, he replied simply with a half smile, “there are two sides of a coin – one is shiny, the other dull”. In other words, on their day they are very good, but they can also be quite ordinary, so they are not yet the finished article. Never one for the self pumping invective (unlike most of the players), “Invers” is one in a million.