Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Did we learn anything from World T-20 2016?

It was indeed heart-wrenching not to see India play in the T-20 World Cup final at the Eden Garden. What a match it would have been had India been playing England at the Eden Gardens for the T-20 World Cup. However, that was not to be given what happened at the Wankade Stadium three days ago. That notwithstanding, there have been some very important lessons for me as I reflect over the past few weeks.
Should we not be happy that India reached the Semi Finals of the World Cup T-20? After all, India did beat Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh (which is no longer a minion in World cricket anymore) to reach the Semi Finals where teams like Australia South Africa and Sri Lanka (the previous T-20 World Cup winner) failed to make it. This is on the back of the semi-final berth in the 50 overs World Cup only last year in Australia. Besides, except for New Zealand there is no other cricket playing country which could qualify in the semi-finals of both 50 overs and T-20 versions of the World Cups in a span of 12 months – March, 2015 and again in March, 2016.
Shouldn’t that make all of us jump with joy? Yes and no. Yes, of course, it does bring huge sense of pride. No, because the expectation that all of us have now is that nothing short of the No.1 spot would satisfy us as far as cricket is concerned. This was not the situation in the first three versions of the World Cup cricket (when it used to be called the Prudential Cup). In the first two versions of the World Cup cricket in 1975 and 1979, India could win only one match and lost to virtually every single team. In the 1983 World Cup, believe me, all of us were thrilled with every victory that the Indian team had. Nobody ever expected the Indian team to reach even the Semi Finals and hence reaching the semi- finals itself was a dream come true. So much so, that The Telegraph had run a complete story on how by beating Australia and reaching the Semi Finals, India had made the task so much easier for England. Rest, as they say, is history. Ever since that World Cup, India has reached Semi Finals or beyond in all the World Cups except in 1992 and 2007. Hence the expectations of millions of cricket lovers in India to hold aloft the trophy every time we enter the world stage.
While we would be thrilled to even qualify for FIFA World Cup finals, in cricket, nothing short of the top slot in any world stage is acceptable. Even before the first ball is bowled in any World Cup cricket tournament, we already visualize the Indian team holding aloft the trophy.
My first learning is that we expect more from people who deliver consistently good results and we are often content with below par performance if there is marginal improvement over a below average base performance. When we reflect back from the cricket field to workplace, do we find the same thing at work as well? We expect more and more from those who consistently deliver superior results while we are perfectly fine with mediocre performance from those who have always delivered average or below par performance? Do we keep raising the proverbial bar for those who continually keep exceeding the bar? And are we content with the below performers just about demonstrating marginal improvements? My experience says we often do and that, to me, is not fair. Every time someone punches above his/ her weight, we should not be raising the bar for the individual while we are perfectly content with someone who missed the standard on the last occasion, just about meeting the standard now. By doing this we are actually penalizing those who consistently raise the bar for themselves because they have to consistently better their own performance which is continually going higher by their own performance, while other people can well be content by marginal improvement over their very mediocre previous performance. This certainly does not lead to a high performing organization when we put undue pressure on those few who deliver superlative performance and our absolutely content with below par or mediocre performance from large majority.
Second learning is that we often depend too much on very few to carry the weight of the entire team. Through this T-20 World Cup it was Virat Kohli all the way for India in each of the games. No team has ever won a World Cup by depending on only one player. All World Cup winning teams have always had a multitude of players contributing for the team in different points in time. For India, in this T-20 World Cup, it was only Virat Kohli and, at best, Ashwin. That does not make it a winning team. It can at best one or two matches if the team is lucky, but it certainly cannot be a champion team with one or two key players, no matter how outstanding they are. Contrast this with the champion team – West Indies. They had Chris Gayle, Simmons, Samuels, Badree, Bravo and even Brathwaite each of them had a match winning performance in some game or the other.
Linked to the previous point is the fact that by putting undue expectations on few, organizations may end up depending too much on too few to deliver outstanding results for them. That does not happen unless the entire team pulls through. Just because we are content with average or below average performance for the larger masses and have disproportionately high expectations from select few, we do not get the team (or the organization) as a whole to deliver superlative performance. Performance of the select few, no matter how superlative, can never make the whole team (or organization) a champion. It is vital to ensure that the talent in the team is widespread and not restricted to a select few. Select few can get some quick wins in the short run, but to win consistently in the long run a team (or an organization) needs match winning talent spread across and deep.
Third learning is that complacency, is more often than not, a trusted ally of defeat. In India’s first match against New Zealand, India had to chase a very ordinary total of 126 which should not have been very difficult for a team with a batting line up like India’s. However, we failed quite comprehensively.  Were we too complacent at the beginning of the innings? Of course it is not possible for me to say with conviction either ways but what is certain is that we lost without putting up a fight of any significance. Even shocking was the West Indies and Afghanistan match where the former could not chase a modest total of 123 put up by the latter. Was that complacency on the part of West Indies which did them in? May not be entirely, but certainly that had a role to play. Now coming to the semi- final match where India lost to West Indies, we were not really in a position to lose till quite some time into the West Indies innings. Our score was a pretty good one to start with and when we had two wickets of West Indies down with Chris Gayle back in the pavilion with only 20 runs or so on the board, we were in a very good chance to win the match. Then somewhere along the way, we thought we had the match in our pockets and did several mistakes which ultimately cost us the match.
Unfortunately, the complacency is not restricted to cricket fields alone. It does inflict us everywhere and there is enough evidence that all of us encounter when the single biggest cause of downfall happens to be complacency. Complacency is the opposite of humility in a manner of speaking and it also clouds our ability to be critical of ourselves. Complacency makes us overlook our shortcomings in the belief that nothing can go wrong.
None of the learning are anything new- we all know about it. It is just that as I reflect upon the just concluded T-20 World Cup, these come staring at me.

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