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India’s 2011 Cricket World Cup victory – a management lesson in Sports

Admittedly, I have been super late in posting this as I had a grueling time in the past weeks after the cricket world cup ended.

India’s recent victory at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is a whirlwind at its best. As always, fans were expecting the master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar, to be the showman. Dropping out of 10th grade, he has been playing the country’s favorite sport and has seen generations of players come and go. Every time he walks into the field, he carries a burden of expectations of a billion people on his shoulders. He has hit 99 centuries so far, yet it took him 21 years to win his first world cup. So, if it were not Sachin, who should be credited with India’s glorious victory?

Beyond just skill and experience that the diverse players in the Indian team possess, there was a crucial element absent for a very long time. Coach Gary Kirsten had been trying hard to get that in the team. The way Gary jumped out of his seat with joy when the Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (MS), hit the winning six was testimony to the coach’s hard work in rebuilding the team, but the expression on MS’s face when he hit that victory shot intrigued me the most. His face was stone cold. His poise was a paradigm of cool-headedness: no smile, outcry, or emotional outburst.

Initially, some people criticized MS as he bagged millions in endorsements and apparently failed to contribute like other talented players in the team did. Many became skeptical about his leadership and so did I. But fans were ignoring that India was consistently making headway towards the finals under his captaincy. Except for South Africa, each of India’s formidable opponents—three consecutive world cup winners Australia to rivals Pakistan—fell like dominos. Previous captains Mohd Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly were great batsmen too, yet, India never won a world cup under them. Interpersonal issues and rifts clogged the team and hindered almost every team player’s success and hence, the team’s. MS’s intuitive leadership, level-headed judgment, and poise brought synergy among the team players. On the field, MS was very mindful of his teammates’ errors, behavioral issues, and evaluating review requests. Never did he display anxiety and nervousness. And to everyone’s surprise in the finals, MS turned the tide in India’s favor, displaying sheer accountability and an exemplar performance. Yes, it indeed was MS’s captaincy that deserves credit and accolade for the much desired—though not as obviously expected—win for India.

What Sachin alone had been trying to accomplish for 21 years, 29-year-old MS did it with a squad of 15 in just 7!


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