It was a chilly winter day in Pakistan over twenty years ago.
A young and furiously fast Waqar Younis delivered a thunderbolt of a short pitched ball which cruelly thudded into the face of the sixteen year old kid who happened to be at the crease. A billion souls collectively gasped. Blood streamed down the batsman’s face. Even the visibly concerned Pakistani players might have begun whispering about the folly of sending out a mere schoolboy to do a man’s job.
But the boy refused to go off the field. He picked himself up and took guard again, his eyes radiating a steely determination that was to become trademark. In the very same over; he smote Younis for two magnificent boundaries that revealed a talent that was prodigiously unique and exhilaratingly extraordinary.
Indian sport had its Big B equivalent. And a cricket crazy nation had witnessed the birth of its most enduring legend.
Two decades on, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar continues to captivate the nation. Normal life still comes to a standstill when he bats.
But are there lessons that we can derive from his inspiring example for matters beyond the cricket pitch, pertinent to the corporate world?
As always the little master does not disappoint…
The importance of the small step
A video compilation of the genius of Tendulkar is likely to almost exclusively include hits to the fence. However, what probably really sets him apart from other modern day batsmen is that he has been a passionate advocate of the single. He has intuitively understood that the magnificent magnum opus of an inning is essentially based on consistently achieving the modest milestones.
Many organizations are completely consumed by their final target. But that in itself is an eventual summit which can only be reached by celebrating every little step along the way. Smaller victories present more frequent opportunities for bonding. They offer avenues of incremental hope when the final destination seems improbable. They just might be the crucial ‘singles’ that contribute towards a game changing initiative for the company. To paraphrase the old adage ‘the journey of a thousand miles is made up of many single steps’
The art of preparation
The legendary military strategist Sun Tzu famously remarked, ‘every battle is won before it is fought.’ The Australians came down to India in 1998, at the peak of Shane Warne’s prowess. The series was billed as a clash between the two maestros. Sachin had spent the larger part of the previous month at the nets, getting some of the best exponents of spin in the country to continuously bowl the oppressive ‘leg stump line’ that Warne would have been certain to unleash against him. Starting from the very first ball he faced from Warne that season, that contest was destined to have only one winner!
At times the simulation of an impending difficult situation goes a long way in ensuring success. From playing out ‘mental movies’ and ‘thought experiments’ (as Einstein would have called them) in one’s mind, to actually conducting pilot runs in test markets. Be it organizational or individual, opportunity – business or otherwise, tends to favor the prepared mind.
The understanding of fundamentals
Watching Sachin build an innings in any form of the game is quite revealing. The beginning is always earmarked with the presentation of a dead straight bat and the endeavor to play in the ‘V’ as much as possible. The feet slowly then begin to adjust to the pace of the bowler and the wicket and once this tuning is done, he is basically underway. Rarely does one see him hit the ball in the air in the early part of the innings unless he is extremely sure of the percentages involved. It is a wonderful example of illustrating the importance of dwelling on the basic fundamentals that helps one go a long way.
In an era where creativity is the ever present buzzword, companies sometimes forget their core competencies, or what their fundamental advantages are. These could range from residing in the manufacturing domain to the management realm. Any attempt therefore to embark on a course of innovation must primarily be built on the back of these fundamental skills, else many companies risk their ventures ‘holing out in the deep’ to use a cricketing metaphor.
The hunger to learn
Tendulkar has always remained a keen student of the game. In his younger days, he consciously added to his technically perfect armory by picking up flair strokes like the paddle sweep from his senior and captain at the time, Mohammed Azharuddin. Today finds him taking to the 20-20 version of the game, actively seeking ideas from what the younger players, less inhibited by technical finesse and more concerned with effectiveness, are displaying. The orange cap at the last IPL is a tribute to the man’s willingness to adapt and learn in changing times.
Similarly companies which have an eye on the future mandatorily have to keep adding to their skill sets. What once brought the organization fame and fortune might be dwindling in terms of demand now. There is also a need for those in the higher echelons of organizations to imbibe a reverse learning process, where they in turn can be tutored by the young and hungry. That just might enhance the career prospects of everyone involved.
The need to stay humble
Lastly what really stands out about the man is that while his ambition and intent have frequently touched the skies, he has always remained firmly rooted. It is interesting to note that in any man-of-the-match interview that Sachin gives (and there have been a few over the years), he seldom talks about himself. He usually tends to speak much more of his team mates. He has been eternally happy to remain a humble servant of the game.
Interestingly many brands worldwide could perhaps do better by taking a leaf out of his book. These days, brands are aspiring to not just preempt the category but sometimes go far beyond. The arrogant tonality of many sporting brands that assume much larger starring roles than the very sport they are meant to service are only a few cases in point. In these times of economic uncertainty, everyone could do with a little dose of humility.
Finally cricket in India is hardly a sport, more a religion and a way of life. It’s time we began to take note of what its high priest has been telling us…
Article by Vinay Kanchan
Vinay Kanchan is a creative thinking trainer and an independent brand consultant. He is the author of the book, The Madness Starts at 9 and also the patron saint of a footballing movement called Juhu Beach United, that celebrates, the unfit, out of breath working professional of today. He blogs at http://vinaykanchan.sulekha.com/and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org