Yes, it’s just one man who has won us the Cup! And it’s not Sachin Tendulkar or Yuvraj Singh... The man is Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who won us the World Cup despite everyone else putting in their bit! Just before the India-Pakistan match, I was called by IBN7 for a discussion on India's chances. There, I had said that I personally believed that the 2003 team that reached the final was more talented than the current team. But I also said that it is this team that will win the Cup, and just due to one factor – not Sachin or anyone else; but for the great leadership of Dhoni! That's the kind of importance I attach to leadership – be it in a country, or in a game; especially like cricket. The 2003 Indian cricket team had a better bowling lineup. And an equally good, if not better, batting lineup due to the sheer presence of one of the best one-day batsmen of the world and the captain who started the great Indian march forward – Sourav Ganguly! But then, Sourav failed to win us the Cup while Dhoni did. And why? The reason is that on the day of the finals of something like a World Cup, what matters more than individual talent is leadership. Every great leader has got their country a Cup, while talented teams minus a good leader have remained at best runners up. While Ganguly was a great captain, yet under him, there was a lot of politics happening in the team all the time; and the team was never playing as a unit the way Dhoni has made them play. In 1983, we won the Cup defeating West Indies and come back home elated. Immediately after that, the West Indies toured India, and whitewashed us 5 to nil! We were surely an inferior team when compared to the then West Indies, even when we won the World Cup. But the Cup then too came to the country which had a team with a better, larger-than-life, lionhearted leadership and team spirit. And it came to Kapil Dev simply because he was able to create a camaraderie that lifted the spirits up; up enough to win the Cup on that crucial day! In league matches, leadership is as important as the team. But as you near the final of a Cup of a massively team-game like cricket, leadership becomes far more important than how good your team is. A below-par India of ‘83 did the magic. And a team today in 2011 with a certainly below-par bowling lineup did the magic again! In both the cases, the full credit goes to leadership. As a management teacher, I know that what Dhoni did was straight out of a leadership book! When Sachin and Sehwag got out, I didn't think of anyone else like Yuvraj; for me, the result depended on just one man. That man was Dhoni. Just as I was hoping, he entered at the fall of the next wicket. Rest, as they say, is history. Without leading from the front – in terms of personal performance as well as creating a team spirit – you can't have a winning team. And Dhoni led from the front, and like how! Hats off to him! Hats off to the great leadership! After winning the cup, it was beautiful the way he was hardly seen anywhere in the limelight. He had done his job and allowed his team to take the limelight! What was better was how everyone in the team spoke post the victory. They all kept mentioning the same point: “We won it for Sachin!” That's what great leaders like Dhoni do. They give the team a bigger purpose to fight for. And Dhoni had given Team India a much greater purpose to fight for. Not the Cup, not personal glory, but a tribute to the nation’s greatest cricketer and an equally great human being – Sachin Tendulkar. And did it work? You bet it did! Hats off once more. Before I end, I must write that yes, I feel very angry when as a nation we fail to win enough medals at the Olympics. It’s poor leadership at the top in the country. The few medals we win are due to individual brilliance and not because of a national scheme or plan. And it’s very disappointing to have not even won 5 Olympic gold medals in the last 25 years... But having played cricket a lot, I can say one thing – if there is one game that requires the most varied amount of skills in the world, its cricket. There is no other game which has so many dimensions – from batting to bowling to fielding to wicket keeping. And so many further variations in each of those areas, not to mention the further variations at the international level. It is one hell of a tough game of very high skills and extremely high team spirit. And a World Cup in this game of cricket, to me, is equivalent to 25 gold medals in the Olympics at the least. Hats off to Dhoni, and of course, to Team India for getting it to us!
- 13 April 2011 |