|Virat Kohli clearly sets the tone for the Indian Cricket Team|
He needs more leaders around him, who are NOT like him
Should members of a team be tightly-knit?
Should a team be a band of brothers, so close that they can
live each other’s lives, complete each other’s sentences, and even sense each
other’s unspoken thoughts? Should they foster this sense of brotherhood by
living every waking minute of their lives together, eating the same meals,
listening to the same music, wearing the same clothes, sloping their shoulders
at the same angle, sporting the same scruffy beards?
This is a Goldilocks problem. Some unity is clearly good. Too
much of this good stuff is counter-productive. It creates group think (or more
precisely, group feel). The hard part is to get the balance just right.
What we just saw from the Indian cricket team in England is both
the good and the bad side of this Goldilocks problem.
In the Lord’s test, it was thrilling to see the passion, commitment,
and belief in this Indian team. The energy India created was so thick that I
could have cut it with a knife 5,000 miles away. They created this magic by
feeding off and amplifying each other’s intensity.
Two weeks later, at Headingley, the same team were flatter
than a dosa (or a pancake). They reminded me of Woody Allen’s truism: that eighty
percent of success is just showing up. Our boys didn’t show up. Sure, there was
technique involved – the optimal Headlingley length is about a yard and a half fuller
than a Lord’s length – but this team has enough resources to have
learnt and acted on that technical difference. We
didn’t learn quickly enough. We weren’t unlucky. We were uninspired.
|England feed off each other's energy|
At Headingley, day 4
How can a team go from magical to uninspired in one match?
When they’re too close to each other. When their moods, thoughts and feelings
are too contagious. Or, when their moods, thoughts and feelings are being orchestrated by one individual. When that happens, the team starts to act like a single organism rather than a set of individuals
with distinct minds and roles. When that happens a team, in any walk of like, the team's performance see-saws or yo-yos. They lack the resilience and stability a team should have.
I think that is happening to Virat's Indian team. When a couple of members get inspired, several others lift their game. When a couple of them get into a
funk, several others also get into a funk. This team is too united.
In the long sweep of history, this unity is an excellent
My generation of cricket fans remember the long painful
years when the Indian cricket team was anything but united. We remember the time
of Gavaskar vs. Kapil Dev regional politics, of the East Zone quota (Barun
Burman? Pranob Roy?), of the time when Raj Singh Dungarpur appointed Azharuddin
captain to clip the wings of players asking for their fair share of the
economic value they were creating, and – the lowest point in our history - the way Azharuddin went on to make money in his own way by throwing matches for
bookies. After all those horrors, the unity, continuity, ambition and therefore
excellence we’ve seen in the age of Ganguly, Dhoni and Kohli has been a delight.
This unity can’t be taken for granted. We need only look
around at the West Indies, Sri Lanka or Pakistan to know the cost of disunity.
These countries continue to produce talented individuals. They haven’t had a
decent team since Brian Lara, Arjuna Ranatunga or Imran Khan because they haven’t
found strong leadership and therefore unity. India has been the only
third-world/ emerging-market team consistently challenging the traditional superpowers
of England and Australia in the twenty-first century, because we’ve consistently
found leadership and unity, because we’ve learnt to play as a team rather than as individuals.
But in the short sweep of history, a couple of “outsiders” –
players who haven’t been in the India-bubble for a long time, who break up the (comfortable) unity of the team – will surely
The team can be united without the players thinking and sounding alike. What Khalil Gibran's Prophet said about marriage, "let there be spaces in your togetherness", applies to teamwork as well.
Virat's team needs more independent characters, fresh
voices, contrarian thoughts, un-synced emotions. The team needs more mood-makers who can pick up the baton when Kohli is just exhausted, who can balance him out, who can zig when the rest of the team are zagging.
I don’t think this is going to happen. All the signals from
the dressing room are that Virat Kohli will double down on the guys, especially
the batters, already in the playing eleven. Which means no "outsiders". Faith easily hardens into
If it’s any consolation, even the best Indian companies - Infosys,
Tata Sons, HDFC Bank - have all had their share of difficulties in renewing their
executive teams. Its not easy, but it is worth it.
|MSD: Bill Gates :: VK : Steve Jobs|
Did Steve Jobs have strong voices around him?
PS: Yes, I could use this thought for a corporate workshop on building an executive team with resilience and bench-strength...