Sunday, 3 April 2011

Hail the leader

If you wanted to understand leadership, you couldn't have done better than to be glued to the TV screens in India yesterday. It was the final of the Cricket World Cup, it was played in Mumbai and India won, setting off a celebration, the likes of which is  unlikely to be seen anywhere in the world - not even if and when Brazil wins the football World Cup in Rio.

This post is not about the victory , but about the leadership of the captain MS Dhoni. They say leaders are born and not made and he seems to be a perfect example of that cliche. Early on in his career, some brilliant selector spotted his leadership skills and elevated him as the captain of the country. And today he has pulled perennially underachieving India to the top of the world cricket. Indian teams have been as talented before, but the deadly element in the mix now is a leader.

Just look at the calmness on the field even when things are going disastrously wrong. With that steely calmness, he gets everybody to claw their way out of the hole. There is never a display of anger, never a dressing down of somebody who isn't performing, rarely the drooping of the shoulder when defeat seems to be looming large.

Leaders have to be incredibly bold. The team selection he did yesterday was bold, even with the benefit of hindsight that his pick was wrong. But he'll probably never make a bolder decision than when India was tottering at 114 for 3 chasing 275 and he promotes himself and walks in to a pressure cooker situation. His form with the bat hadn't been good lately and the conventional thing to do would have been to drop himself down the order and play safe. But in he walks, takes the pressure on his shoulders as a leader should and  the rest is history. Even if he had failed, it would have been unparalleled as an act of incredible boldness as a leader.

But to me, the final proof of greatness as a leader was after the game. Did you notice that as every player was celebrating wildly , doing victory lap after victory lap, Dhoni wasn't to be seen much. He received the cup, gave it to his teammates to parade it around and simply disappeared. Now that is a truly great leader. Let the team rightfully receive and soak in the adulation. His own joy was simply knowing that it was his leadership that made the difference.

A truly class act.


RS said...

A much expected post from you :)...Have been refreshing this page long to see your post on the finals and bang on!!

Did you also see that while he received the momento after the win (during the presentation ceremony), he was in an introspection mode, listing what could have costed him much?

A true class leader, indeed....Gary Kirsten also deserves equal praise!!!!

Sandhya Sriram said...

RS said all that i had to say.

a > from yesterday night, i knew this is gonna be your sunday post and hence was wondering which flavour of the game you would touch

a > Dhoni's leadership - he could have been wrong with sreeshant but he had the honesty to acknowledge it,.
b > The Sachin bit that even "God" can sometimes feel proud
c > The secret binder - Gary - i think that was a phenomenal leadership from Gary as well - it is not simple to bind a high performance but extremely emotional team together in way that you get their best out.

Jai HO India

PS: my comment on the previous post disappeared for some reason.

you choose

Sandhya Sriram said...

sorry... pressed enter before completing

You chose the one closest to your personality --- bold leadership yet unassuming!!

Anonymous said...

Well said,especially the pressure part,it was played very well.As others even i was waiting what would you blog about India's victory.

Ramesh said...

@RS - Did you watch the game ? It must have been very late for you. Oh Yes - the story of Gary Kirsten is reserved for another day. What he did as a coach can do is something amazing.

@Sandhya - Oh yes Gary and many others deserve accolade. But for me, at the top of list was Dhoni.

You comment on the last post went to spam, but I put it back. Fancy anybody thinking your post can be spam ?? Google is so so dumb:)

Exkalibur 666 said...

It was a true captains knock from MSD. For once we did not falter after a set back and this was due to steely determination from Gautam & Dhoni.

RS said...

We did watch. Stayed awake till 4am-anything to see Indian team (with Sachin) earn the cup :).

The last three matches that India played-Ind Vs Aus, Ind Vs Pak and this one were of true CLASS, weren't they?

kiwibloke said...

a great performance by captain cool. Reminds me of one of the quotes of Lao Tzu on leadership. A bad leader is feared, a good one respected, a great one unseeen, for his people would say 'we did it ourselves'. Not sure if this is the right transliteration but I guess that's the essence of the quote and that was exactly what we saw with IceMan yesterday.

zeno said...

I would have gladly bet my money that today's post from you would be on MSD leadership :P It got double confirmed after the post match introspection :P
Looking forward for Gary Post!

CMK said...

Nice one about the leadership.

MSD had displayed a quality of leadership earlier after the semifinal - accepting publicly that he had made a mistake in the selection. Maybe it had been a collective decision of the coach and the senior team members along with him - it usually is the process - but he took it the blame on himself. In contrast about the decision of his promotion in the batting order which became a roaring success,he said that it had the blessings of the coach - thus sharing the credit.

I am sure you also noticed another facet of his - the uncanny knack of disarming the 1 billion or so pundits by saying why he did this and not that before even the uncomfortable questions popped up.

A class act indeed.

Ramesh said...

@Exkalibur - Yes indeed. The team showed character the likes of which we have rarely seen.

@RS - They were great matches indeed. Wow that is some following - being up till 4 AM.

@kiwi - Great quote. Such leadership is so so rare.

@zeno - What a display of leadership ....

@CMK - Very true.He deserves all the praise and more.

gils said...

i was guessing it wd be on Gary..and Dhoni is no less too. Absolutely brilliant quality leader and i noticed his vanishing act in the end too :) have u seen his hairstyle today? he has shaved it off totally!! this is one man who knows what he wants to do and has the guts to do it..with flair and style!!

Deepa said...

My husband wanted me to put in a special request for this post to you. Mind you not about the victory, but about the captain. And now that you have telepathically honoured his request, he is grinning ear to ear, and I am being shoved away from the keyboard right now-

"Thank you for this post Ramesh. For me, he was the true Hero behind India's acheivement. It is once in a lifetime that you witness such a display of character. As you rightly pointed out, it was not about his game, it was all about his demeanour after the game. If there is a definition of a perfect "King" in Indian mythology, we all got to see him yesterday.


J said...

It was all Shyam could talk about - how Dhoni led from the front and kept the team together and yes he did wake up at 3AM to see the finals!

Ramesh said...

@Gils - Yes - must have made the Jharkhand equivalent of the Tirupathi mottai prayers. Saw your post on the finals too - very nice

@Sushil - Delighted to have you as a reader and thanks for commenting. It was a very special display, wasn't it. One of those that's going to live in the memory of everybody who was around.

@J - I am sure his leadership is going to end up in business schools as a case study. Its too juicy not to. Wow wake up at 3 AM - that's a true cricket fan.

Vishal said...

A class act, Ramesh! from you and from MSD. Just read a comment from Sachin saying Dhoni is the best captain he has ever played for! Indeed he is! A slient leader, a thoughtful leader and an inamitable leader!

Over the years, his demeanour is what sets him apart. All 15 players showed incredible demeanour on the field. He has managed to marry diversified talents and behaviour wonderfully.

We see only the matches, but there are so many preparations that goes behind it, the support staff, the coach, the captain. They all have done wonderful jobs. Hail team India

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Huge digression - but I sent this into the Guardian today.
My credentials - cricket purist, test cricket enthusiast, consider IPL and 20-20 a travesty, British national now living in India.

Its not you alone, Barney, but the general tone of the British mainstream press has been condescending in parts. What you saw on Saturday on telly was an important milestone in a process that began a long time ago in the 1930s. The Empire took the game and made it their own, and long after the Crown ceased to to rule, the game has been thoroughly localized. The traditions of the game as we are used to in county grounds will continue to exist, and indeed, they exist in the middle when India-Pakistan or India-Australia games are played. There is gamesmanship, there is sledging, there are game faces as friends play each other for a prize and focus on winning for their team. Most important of all, though, there is virtue that used to be celebrated in English cricket - skilled men employing the physics of cricket that have remained unchanged over 150 years. There is also a lot of grace on display - Afridi joking with Tendulkar after the first drop at mid-wicket. Or Dhoni willing to toss the coin again. I could go on. These are virtues of the game- and should be applauded. When a young Virat Kohli, all of 22, comes in with the Little Master gone, and calmly rotates the strike to put on 90, I should think that is a display of the British bulldog spirit in Indian clothing that purists would acclaim.

England does not have to Indianise its cricket or even like the way emotions are bared on an Indian ground. You do not have to like the BCCI (I dont, and I thought the sight of fat, corrupt Indian politicians handling the Cup was abhorrent). But do get used to the fact that this is the way the game will be played.

There may come a day when England ceases to matter in cricket. That would be a sad day indeed. But if it does, know that there will be a corner of an English cricket field somewhere in India where you can watch bat meet ball, and where you may applaud the shot with a quiet "Good shot sir" while people around you whip out their horns and drums.

kiwibloke said...

Brilliant one Ravi! I especially loved the grace bit about Sachin and Afridi or the toss going for a toss! Poignant yet beautiful

zeno said...

One of my Ofis colleague enlightened me that it was Ganguly who suggested Dhoni for captaincy, though couldnt verify it!

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Indeed its always many people behind the scenes who make a victory happen. But at the end of the day its the 11 on a field who have to perform. They deserve the accolades

@Ravi - A class comment. Pity you are British !!! Pip Pip and toodle-oo.

@zeno - Very likely. Ganguly was a very astute captain too of a different mould - very excitable and passionate, but a good captain too.

Anonymous said...

MS Dhoni, master of the 'Helicopter shot'.

I'm sitting here half a world away and don't know a damn thing about cricket, yet your post here had me searching out some more information about Mr. Dhoni. Happy to hear a country with such a passion for the sport was crowned World Champions. Watching a cricket game in India has just made my bucket list.

Preeti Shenoy said...

Brilliantly said Ramesh. Hats off to the guy. (I'm making a portrait of him. Will send you link when I put it up)

Ramesh said...

@Hopfrog - Totally dumbstruck that you actually went into discovering a name you would definitely not have heard of before, even to the extent of discovering the helicopter shot !! Wow !!

@Preeti - Do a portrait of him in his younger days with the long hair ... would be a classic.

Mahrukh said...

Ramesh - you are the ideal living example of this great leadership trait I have seen and no one can beat that - not even MS Dhoni. You are an ICON.

Striver said...

Really late on this! Every word of your post drips truth, Ramesh. What a display of leadership indeed!
This is tempting me to pen a few lines...

Four wickets withered one by one,
Stunned silence, breathing prayers everyone;
Lo and behold, the leader emerged,
The Cup was ours as his last ball soared!

Ramesh said...

@Mahrukh - Awwwww Mahrukh. Totally floored. Hope you are doing great and its lovely to see you here.

@Striver - Trust a poet to pen such lovely lines. Four lines that should actually replace my entire post. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

great post

RamMmm said...

Loved this post. I watched the match in the middle of wilderness (where satellite TV seems to have a foothold) as MSD and team slowly moved towards the goal. I was almost resigned to SL lifting the cup when Dhoni walked in, but he was like a beacon and managed to get to the goal leading from the front. Captain Cool he was, indeed!

Ramesh said...

@Anon - Thanks

@RamMmm - A great show. Irrespective of what he does from now on, this will be the best day of his life.

Reflections said...

Loved the post....dont have anything to say as all of u said it all. Just savoured the words:-))

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