|Sourav Ganguly and John Wright have been working towards a 'cultural change' in Indian cricket.
I have been fortunate to visit India twice over the last few months. On the first visit, I had to do some client-focussed management seminars for HSBC ; and now to launch an exciting business coaching programme for the staff of Mahindra-BT.
Both ventures have given me the opportunity to work with Indian corporate culture, while being able to view from a little closer at hand, Indian cricket as it prepares for the coming Test series versus New Zealand, the tri-series including ourselves and, of course, the coming tour Down Under.
In my first visit, I was able to have a brief meeting with John Wright in Bangalore where at that stage he was in the process of renegotiating his contract. Fortunately for him, and I believe for Indian cricket, he has gained an extension which will mean he will be able to continue the slow process of ‘cultural change’ in Indian cricket that has been occurring, particularly since Sourav Ganguly was appointed captain.
As in the corporate world, change, and in particular “cultural change” is a difficult process – it takes time, can be threatening to those who anchor themselves in the “old ways”, and can be derailed at anytime till it gains enough ownership by key stakeholders so as to develop a momentum of its own.
Consequently, two questions arise — why is change to Indian cricket needed in the first place' Secondly, what methods Indian cricket is employing to enhance the process'
The answer to the first question is a simple choice by those who control the game – either to choose to continue a current system, which has produced many fine players and moments in history or to choose to set our sights on a loftier vision which is to dominate world cricket, on and off the playing field.
I am not privy to the discussions of Indian cricket administrations (nor do I pretend to be), but it appears from outside that the appointments of Sourav, Wright, Leipus, King and the infusion of advice from MRF Foundation programmes headed by Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell, Sandy Gordon, and T.A. Sekhar are some important strategies towards achieving the latter vision.
Of course, the flag bearer of such change is the national team and it must have champions of change within its midst if it has to help drive the overall process.
Sourav and Wright are the two most visible members whose actions and words will constantly reinforce the message of change.
Sourav, in a biography, suggests after beating Australia in Chennai: “It is just a beginning and we would like to seek the support of our countrymen. We all welcome criticism, but not in the way it has been heaped upon us. Please try to understand we are all trying our best and are in the process of forming the right combination.”
Wright on the other hand often speaks of having players in his team “who will die for India”. Such words must be supported by a range of strategies which are all designed to take the Indian team to a new level of playing standards on the cricket field.
The current camp in Bangalore is an important piece of the puzzle along this journey. While the players are undergoing some fitness activities which I am sure will be testing both body and mind, the camp has the potential for Wright, Sourav, and national selectors to highlight and reinforce some crucial values to the squad of probables.
Values such as “pride in performance,” “never say die attitude,” “hard work,” “mental toughness,” and so on will be part of the camp. These values and others will be repeated throughout the stay in Bangalore through physical sessions, through team building activities, and through talks given by various key persons attending the camp.
It is a time when new personnel, both from a playing and support staff perspective, quickly integrate to the existing team core by committing to the agreed goals and approaches.
I hear former players and commentators of the game saying this is nothing new: “ We did the same things in our way and help similar values”.
Such views may or may not be true, I cannot comment. What I can say though is that in today’s game, a successful team must have talent, strong leadership on and off the field, a vision that gives direction and coordination to all decisions which affect on-field performance, and a value system and culture which is the glue that binds everything together – I see this happening with the current Indian team.