Management Lessons from Indian Cricket Captains

Cricket is a team sport. Teams lose or win. It's always a team effort, right?

From the outside, it seems like it is a team effort, but the captain is held responsible first, even if he did everything by the book or explored something new, won, or lost.

He is hailed as a leader or is shunted as powerless and unworthy.
This blog post is to understand the psyche of these captains when they entered the grounds hearing the loud cheers of the crowd with 1.3 billion hopes guarded on their shoulders.

These men of courage have been put in critical situations time and again, and it is this analysis of these moments that I have tried to explore with a management touch.

Let's Begin!

 Sourav Ganguly (captain from 1999–to-2005)

1) Team building skills:- A leader needs to have clarity on who he wants in his/her team and what role will the person play

Saurav Ganguly vouched for Harbhajan Singh to be included in the team against Australia in 2001, even though the selectors had already decided to leave him out. 

He knew Australians have a weakness of facing spin-bowling which has not yet been exploited and a new spinner will be a mystery for them.

He did the same by picking MS Dhoni in 2004 and not Dinesh Karthik as he wanted a more aggressive player in the squad, the rest is history.

2) Strategic Mindset:- In his book, Ganguly writes, "The day I became captain I told myself this age-old policy of spinners being preferred had to change. I wanted young fast bowlers and an aggressive team that can win anywhere and not just at Home"

The change in perception of Indian cricket started with just one such out of the box thinker and it has done wonders to the Indian cricket team's success rates.

  • Teams have to be strategically designed for achieving the unthinkable and management has to make sure that they are aligned to that one goal called upon by the leader

 MS Dhoni ( 2007-2015) 

Dhoni was named the captain for the first time in 2007 just when all the greats stepped down from playing the t20 world cup.

He played the first match as captain on 14th September against Pakistan which had a draw and lead to a bowl out, but an interesting observation is that the bowl out had been won before even a ball was bowled.

3) How to win in Tough Situations: Dhoni has been credited for thriving in tough situations, he anticipates every move of his opponent and prepares a counter-plan 

There are 3 components to this:- Purpose - Plan/Counter-plan - Action

Here the purpose is clear: We need to win this match

So does the other team

Plan (Pakistan):  Give the ball to the regular bowlers to hit the stumps

Counterplan (India): Give the ball to spinners and non-regulars, make it easy for them to hit the stumps

Action: Look at where Dhoni is sitting behind the stumps, he has almost enveloped himself behind the stumps so that the bowler bowls at the stump directly 

Look at where Kamran Akmal is standing, he is creating a diversion for his bowlers

Small actions but the greater is the impact, Pakistan didn't hit a single ball at the stump.

India won convincingly.

  • If sales are sluggish if a team member is not up to the mark, can a manager provide a purpose with a plan/counterplan and some actionable steps

4) Be Calm & Patient: For every manager and leader being calm is critical.

India vs Australia, 4th ODI, 2012, Adelaide Oval
Clint Mckay is bowling the final over, R Ashwin is on strike: Need 13 runs from 6 balls. 

49.1: R Ashwin tries to flick it past fine-leg, misses miserably

49.2: R Ashwin puts bat to ball and it races to deep midwicket, they run 1, there is a misfield, opportunity for 2 runs, Dhoni says "NO"

(Ian Chapel in the commentary: How is that for Confidence)

Dhoni is having nerves of steel, no matter what goes on the outside he is calm, even though there might be a tornado forming inside of him.

(12 runs from  4 balls, crowd on their feet, some are looking up to the heavens)

49.3:  Six to Long on, 112 metres,  clint is stunned, he is panicking now

(Need 6 from 3 balls)

49.4: Clint bowls an above waste No ball, Dhoni pulls it to deep midwicket, they run 2, total 3 runs from this ball which will not even be counted.

(3 needed from 3 balls)

49.4: Clint balls it short this time, Dhoni turns it around to deep square leg and runs 3, match over 

India won with 2 balls to spare.

  • Being calm helps in 2 things: The opponent is shaken by your calmness, it helps your team to stay calm and it does not cloud your own judgement.

If the captain panics, everyone in the team will start panicking.

When you panic, the first sense that is disabled is listening, then it is thinking.

You hear people talking to you, but it is muffled, you are with your own thoughts that are taking you down a wrong path

  • No manager can make good decisions if he or she is in panic.

Rahul Dravid (2005-2007) 

The Wall of the Indian cricket with his consistency, grace, and patience has overcome many hurdles

5) Be a Teamplayer first: The Indian team once decided to take an extra batsman and that meant one player had to step down and play the role of wicketkeeper. 

Rahul Dravid played the role of a finisher and dropped down to number 5.  This also brought down his opportunity to score hundreds.  However, he did this gracefully for the sake of his team.

6) Learn to handle failures: ICC 2006/07 World cup, India didn't even enter the playoffs, and to make matter worse we were defeated by Bangladesh, all were appalled to see the state of the Indian cricket team

Rahul Dravid was captain at that time and let me just share the views of Rahul Dravid on failures, verbatim 

"A lot of times when we fail, we tend to brush things under the carpet, you can blame someone or always look to find an excuse. There's always something that was wrong that caused you to fail.

"But such attitude costs you an opportunity to fail well and understand what your weaknesses are. It robs you the chance to understand at that stage what are the skills that you have and what's lacking,"

  • If Sales team has failed, the Marketing team did not do a good job, if HR hires poorly, management was not focused, do not point fingers at others, it is time to ponder and work on what went wrong, so as to not repeat it

Luckily, the Indian cricket team got this message in 2007 and have never looked back

Kapil Dev  (1983-84)

1983 World cup: The match was the third consecutive World Cup final hosted at Lord's, following those in 1975 and 1979.

India was making their first appearance at a World Cup final after defeating England by 6 wickets in the first semi-finals. This was also the first appearance by an Asian nation in a World Cup final.

India's Score at first half: 183 all out in 54.4 overs 

It was a child's play for the mighty WestIndies

Wife's of Gavaskar and K Srikkanth also left the ground thinking, the game is lost

7) Have faith in your team:  The dressing room had an emotion of despair, every player needed support and encouragement. More than that they needed to have faith that they can win

Kapil Dev stood up, "We can win, it's not impossible, the wicket is tough to bat on"

"If we can get Viv Richards out the game is ours"

Kapil Dev believed in his team's abilities and indeed he was the one who took that amazing catch running backward which crumpled West-Indies

West Indies were 140 all out, a feet never been accomplished before, India won

  • The manager needs to believe in the abilities of his team members and provide support and confidence when they need it the most

Thanks for your time, I hope you enjoyed this read


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