For most Indians, cricket is more than just a game; it is almost equivalent to a religion. However, what most people miss are the lessons from a cricket field that you can take home and apply to life. The gamut of cricketing events – unpredictable strategies used by teams on-the-field; how a specific player adapts himself to a situation and constructs an innings and even playing mind games off-the-field – presents important lessons to a professional in the business world. Through this article, we chronicle certain lessons from the cricket world that can be applied to the corporate world too.
Lesson 1: Know risk, know gain
The way in which the Sri Lankans approached their batting in their 1995-96 tour of Australia revolutionised one-day cricket and thereby, forced other teams to change their style of play too. Sri Lanka took maximum advantage of the field restrictions that were in effect during the first 15-overs wherein just two fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle. The Lankan openers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, showed aggressive intent and attacked the bowlers right from the first ball. They did so by consistently hitting over the in-field and finding the boundary by precisely piercing the gaps. They also maintained a healthy run-rate of around 6 in the initial 15-overs of the innings, something that was unheard of at that time.
Though, there were few players in world cricket (like India’s own Krishnamachari Srikkanth) who were aggressive right from the start, they were considered anomalies and played so due to their individual attacking nature and style of play. Sri Lanka was the first team to formally implement this as a strategy. A gamble, where there was a huge element of risk involved, which paid big. There were the occasions where the openers were dismissed for a cheap score, but, on days the strategy worked, the Lanka ns won the game. There is always a risk when implementing novel ideas, but, pursue them as the returns are huge.
Lesson 2: Fight the odds to the finish
India’s V.V.S Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s epic second-innings stand at Kolkatta in 2001 – What was witnessed at Eden Gardens is etched in cricketing memory forever for what was perhaps, one of the greatest days in the game. The 376-run stand was a watershed moment as it gave Indian cricket an impetus to ascend the peak of test supremacy and since then, made captains fear and re-think before enforcing the follow-on. Yes, there have been numerous occasions where players have battled adversity and played outstanding knocks to carry their team to safety, but, I chose to write about the Dravid-Laxman stand since the magnitude of odds stacked against them were huge and seemed virtually insurmountable. (That and the Indian bias!) They remained defiant and had an answer to everything the Australians threw at them. Basically, their knocks were a result of strong grit, fearless attitude, unwavering concentration and perfect application of technique. At a time of crisis in the business, one can use this example for inspiration to find the strength to fight back and get past what seems impossible.
Lesson 3: Choose right over right now
Bodyline: The 1932-33 Ashes has been adjudged the greatest series in cricket history. People still remember this series for the audacious strategy used by the English team to contain the Australian batsmen, particularly Sir Don Bradman. The then English captain Douglas Jardine asked his bowlers to bowl short on the leg stump; packed the leg-side with close-in fielders and hoped the Australian batsmen would produce an edge on the leg-side. The English bowlers implemented this plan to perfection and consistently hit the batsmen with their rising deliveries that caused career-threatening injuries. Jardine’s plan did not violate any law at that time, but, due to its dire consequences it was called unsportsmanlike and ridiculed by the international press and cricketing community alike. Jardine & Co. won the Ashes, but, became very unpopular and went onto be the most hated group of players ever! Business professionals often face similar situations which could compromise work ethics. There is a thin line between being legal and unethical – but, for long-term success it is important to know that line and not cross it. The ethical route, albeit trying, is bound to reap recognition and reward in the long run.
Lesson 4: Roll up your sleeves and get to work
Apart from the IPL controversies, the major event off-the cricket field that made the biggest headlines was the election of Anil Kumble as the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) President. His former teammates and Indian pace-bowling stars Jaavgal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad also got elected to different posts in his administration team. Over the past few weeks, a lot has been said and written about how players of such high stature have forayed into cricket administration and maybe more should follow suit. But, the point here that was not highlighted enough is their willingness to take up responsibility. All three of them were already involved with the game and “giving back” in some capacity or the other. Further, Shreekantadatta Narasimharaja Woodeyar, who was controlling the KSCA for last decade offered them lucrative roles through which they could have still contributed to Karnataka cricket in a big way. The fact that they declined his offer; challenged him and beat him in a tough contest only shows that they do not wish to be mere agents of change, but, own things and do it their way. Similarly, good business leaders are expected to take charge of things, drive and manage projects and more importantly, drive change.
Lesson 5: Stay a step ahead of change
Sachin Tendulkar’s 20 years in cricket – Sachin Ramesh Tendulakar is worshipped in cricket-crazy India and fans across the world are in awe of his batting prowess. Tendulkar owns almost every other batting record – but, two of the most important statistics are that he has played the most number of Tests and one-day internationals. More than 20 years since his debut, he plays with the same hunger and passion; enjoys the game with the same enthusiasm and continues to captivate spectators with the same magic like he first did in 1989 at Pakistan. This long career has been marked by many breaks due to the injuries he’s suffered, but, from each of these breaks he has come back physically fitter and mentally stronger. He focused intensely and rehabilitated rigorously that enabled him to regain match fitness and hit top form. These breaks and injuries are akin to the many setbacks professionals may face in their careers so like Tendulkar does they must now allow these to hinder their progress, but, find ways to come out stronger. Further, we all know that he is not the same kind of player he once used to be. His playing style has changed; he attacks bowling line-ups with controlled aggression and continues to learn and adapt himself according to the situation. This is one leaf that any professional can pull straight out of the little master’s book. Success means being flexible and constantly adapting to changing trends.