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Satya Nadella, the newly appointed Microsoft CEO, has attributed his leadership skills to Test cricket. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to make sense of Nadella’s wise words. It is, indeed, a lesson to be learned for the common cricket fan.
On being appointed the third CEO in the history of Microsoft, Satya Nadella has said something that may stun the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian cricket fans: he attributed his leadership skills to Test cricket. He had added the word “Test” specifically. Talking about the most classical version of the sport he added: “I love it. There’s [sic] so many subplots in it, it’s like reading a Russian novel.”
It may come across as a surprise that the miscellaneous strategies being discussed when the Indian Premier League (IPL) — auctions, Powerplays, strategic timeouts, on-the-fly decisions, and many more — have not come across as appealing to the new Nadella. He remains one of those that are impressed more by a Rahul Dravid taking over three hours to settle down — the time required for an IPL match — or a bowler taking four overs to really get into the thick of things.
But more than that, the longest version of the sport involves gripping and drawn-out one-on-one contests inside eleven-on-eleven ones in a way that perhaps no other sport can emulate: the psychological tussles between a bowler and a batsman, two bowlers and two batsmen, a batsman and a fielder can all be gripping enough for the spectators and the players to the same extent as the match itself.
This is exactly where serious leadership skills come into play: Rodney Hogg was so impressed by Mike Brearley’s man-management skills that he was compelled to ask about “He’s got a degree in people, hasn’t he?” Brearley would have fitted into both roles as a project-manager and a team-manager in any kind of organisation.
His prowess, however, was restricted to the longest format: it had famously gone wrong in the 1979 World Cup final. When one talks of the greatest cricket captains of all time invariably the names of the greatest Test captains come up. Running an organisation is, in a lot of ways, similar: one can aim at short-term goals, but the focus is often on taking an organisation from level to level. It will not be an exaggeration to call men like Brearely a Nadella of the sport.
Maybe it is time for captains over the world to take a leaf out of Nadella’s book in a way similar to he has done it himself as per his own admission. Winning matches may not be that difficult, but it had taken a Bobby Simpson and an Allan Border to lay the foundation of a side that had lasted for two decades, and after a couple of low years, are have taken an upward direction as well.
Mark Taylor had bettered the rise, Steve Waugh had perfected it, and Ricky Ponting had ruled over it proficiently. Rising to the top is not the easiest thing to do in Test cricket — and neither is staying there. The four captains, between them, had managed to do it. And all that had involved hundreds of Tests involving thousands of small tussles and subplots: the trick lay in winning over these small battles — something that would culminate into winning the war.
Nadella had understood it: one can only hope that the boards and fans draw some inspiration from his words.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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