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Stokes & McCullum: A Perfect Partnership for England’s Cricket Team

Ben Stokes, the new England Cricket Captain, has shown fantastic leadership. He has ushered in a new era to English Cricket by stating his desire for his team to play selfless cricket. (

The virtues of selfless decision-making in elite sport has been a focus of mine. In my book, Detox Your Ego, I outlined that when elite athlete’s focus on winning for oneself it can be very dangerous. “The pursuit of winning for oneself, should, like smoking, come with a government health warning: "PURSUING WINNING FOR ONESELF CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH." (Detox Your Ego, p23)

I found World Champions were selfless at the moment of becoming the best in the world (Detox Your Ego, page 33). These individuals understood how their winning could serve others. They had a greater purpose for winning that went beyond their own self-interest.

It is heart-warming to hear Stokes commit to a selfless mindset for his team. Putting the needs and wishes of the England team first will lead to great results. Stokes will not only play better but it will also be a perfect way of rebalancing his mental wellbeing. (

Success and happiness improve when someone focuses on a purpose beyond oneself. While Stokes has been an amazing cricketer, his career hasn't occurred without incident. His attention on collective purpose will give him a new level of energy and stability. It will give English cricket something it has been missing for a while now. As a result, he will enjoy more openness with his players and team. He will also find a new sense of happiness and freedom. His selfless mindset will be like a superfood supplement for his players. They will feed off the power of it and want to follow his lead.

Stokes will experience more intrinsic rewards and improved mental wellbeing. He will feel on purpose by getting his team to serve English cricket differently in this new era. Stokes and his team will transcend cricket by their way of playing. Players will feel the benefit of everyone putting the team first. The team will have a higher level of togetherness. Players will feel free to express themselves and do more for the team. Stokes will enjoy the transformation of those around him. He will experience more joy as he begins to see his players and team grow as a community. There will be a greater appetite for being player-led, with selflessness at the heart of their play tomorrow. His new approach will be a massive boost to English cricket. At a time, when England have only won one of the last seventeen Test matches. He will not only continue as one of the world’s best allrounders, but he will also develop as a person and leader.

Stokes has the guidance of a great leader. Brendan McCullum is England's new Head Coach. Stokes will have immense support from him to help the team stay on track. McCullum has spent his entire career putting-the-team ahead of his individual-need.

An amazing feat to witness. McCullum, for example, may choose to run down the wicket and hit a boundary off the fast-opening bowler. Or he would play in a defensive mode and bat for a couple of days. His decision on whether to attack or defend depended on what-the-team-needed. Now, his challenge is to helps Stokes do the same with his team. McCullum will need an even higher level of selflessness to help Stokes.

This transition may be easy. McCullum, has been a world class cricketer. He led by example. Stokes may be able to follow his lead. The question arises: Can McCullum lead the England team like he led New Zealand cricket? He laid the foundation for New Zealand to win the ICC World Test Championship. Cricket in England is different to that of New Zealand.

It will take a skilful approach by Stoke and McCullum to counter any resistance to change. The difficult task is to help players shift from an individual mindset to a team mindset. As we can see Stokes has already made a start by saying: "Decisions I make are based on what is the best thing to do to give us a chance. I want to have 10 other guys out there with me who have that mindset."

To do this Stokes will have to help McCullum to navigate the English cricket culture. McCullum will learn fast. McCullum is the perfect change agent for England cricket. He will be able to win the hearts and minds of the players and get everyone pulling in the same direction. A pure gift. McCullum will create the culture change required in English cricket. His partnership and togetherness with Stokes will yield great results. Their inspiration will fuel the England team to dominate world cricket for years to come.


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