Cricketing lessons businesses can pick up from ICC 2011

Tuesday, 22 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

South Asia has emerged as one of the key economic engines of the world, with growth outpacing world growth, resulting in the big names of business being attracted to our part of the world.

Last week once again we commanded world attention, but this time under the banner of cricket. Some say that cricket and business are the only things that unite South Asia and I guess it’s true.

Last Sunday when I took time off to pen this column, the statistics of ICC 2011 World Cup intrigued me to do this piece linking cricket and business. Let me capture the key thoughts.

Australia – 10 new faces

Believe it or not the Australian team has been rated as the team in the world in the last three years, but it is coming into the ICC Championship 2011 with 10 new faces. It is strange, but for a winning team to bring in this mix for such an important tournament signifies the entrepreneurial thinking that is at play of the administrators.

It is also important to highlight that the Australian team mainly consist of 25-29 year olds. This further strengthens the argument of building the future team and the developmental agenda that is in progress, to be specific in the Australian Cricket Academy.

The implication to us in business is the importance of developing the second line. This must be systemic rather than ad hoc. I would also argue that Sri Lanka must introduce contractual employment because it derives higher productivity at certain levels rather than permanent employment. In fact in certain global multinationals at senior management level this arrangement is already at play and working very well.

One stalwart

There is a new insight that has emerged at ICC 2011. There is one stalwart who has concreted his way into each team. This is seen across all the key teams playing this year’s edition; Murali for Sri Lanka, Chanderpaul for West Indies, Tendulkar for India and Kallis for South Africa, to be very specific. The essence is that they have played under many younger captains.

The implication to the business world is if a day would dawn where a key personality will continue to remain working at maybe board level so that complex deliverables like the triple bottom line can be delivered. This will require very strong maturity and mentoring at the highest level. I have observed this characteristic existing in family-owned companies.

Wildcard entry

When Praveen sustained an injury is the final days of preparation Sreesanth got a wildcard entry into the magical top 15 of the Indian team, giving him a lifetime opportunity. The point to note is that Sreesanth had continued to perform when he was outside the 15 member team and hence was a top of the mind choice when the country required a replacement.

I guess the implication to business is that when one is knocking on the door at board level, even when dropped, the aggressive performance must continue. You will never know when you will the opportunity to ring a bell and the key question is, are you ready?

Few teenagers

Apart from Pakistan there are no teenagers in any of the top teams of ICC 2011. This means there are no whiz kids like the Ranatungas, Tendulkars or Laras of the world in the making. It is not that that talent is nonexistent, but that the search light may have been switched off.

The implication to business is that we have to spend time to identify talent. I have seen how some CEOs take time off to be part of career guidance days in universities. They just do not come, but actively take part on panel discussions to share their learnings. But what is required is more involvement of HR at open days so that top talent can be picked up early, not at university level, but also outstanding sports personalities.

Corporate athleticism

Once again strange but Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan and New Zealand are some top teams in the tournament that are featuring athletes in the age group 30-34 years. This will require not only being fit and skilled but a way of life to continue to perform.

The implication to business in my view is that we need to develop talent who can be corporate athletes; those who are skilled on the job and also demonstrate athleticism in sports. The term is corporate athleticism, which is the new age ethos of top business executives, that has come out of research from Harvard University recently.

Turning point

If we take the 35+ individuals in each team, they are the very best in each team. Be it Tendulkar, Murali or Ponting. My take is that by 35+ one either cuts ahead of the pack in an office or in the country and shine out. If one wants to be a high need achiever, the targeted age to shine must be 35+. But a point to note is that there are people who succumb at 28 to heart attacks or diabetes, which means that you cannot burn out in this thirst for success.

1992: Imran factor

Reflecting on the 1992 World Cup, what we saw was that Pakistan was rated 1:50 having a chance to lift the trophy. In the first three games the team was out placed by competitors. But the difference was that the ‘Imran’ factor continued.

Outstanding leadership from the front saw Pakistan through rest of the games and finally the Cup. At the awards ceremony he mentioned: “Thanks for making my obsession of building a cancer hospital become a reality.”

Implication to business is that strong leadership can make a difference in this age of technology where everything in life has been superseded by either email, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or e-bay.

1996: No stars

My final take is the 1996 games where Sri Lanka went in without any stars. There were no ‘Donalds,’ no ‘Akrams’ or ‘Warnes’. It was just an average team that was strongly bonded. The team won the cup. We have seen this in many other games, be it football or rugby, where it was not the team with stars that won but strong team working relationships.

I guess when we have to pick that team on a Monday morning, better than picking stars, agree on the roles that are required and pick people to fit the role keeping in mind how well that person will gel into the team. Enjoy ICC 2011.

(The author is a business professional serving the international public sector, private sector and the Government of Sri Lanka at board level. He has twice won the Marketing Achiever Award of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Business Achiever Award from PIM Alumni University of Sri Jayewardenepura and Global Award from Johnson-Lever. Athukorala was the eighth Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board and National Council for Economic Development, when the country crossed the 6,000 million export revenue mark and 7.4% GDP growth. Athukorala is actively involved in the growth agenda of Sri Lanka.)

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