(Warning – long post)
In the last few months, predictions in cricket have become more difficult to make given that Australian domination has ended. Teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan are inspired by random Brownian motion theory. Till some months ago, only Australia was consistent – despite being down in a few matches now and then, somebody would stand up, perform and they would ultimately win. At times, luck would help them. Bucknor would not give an Aussie out even if he nicked the ball, or give an opposition batsman out LBW if he ducked and the ball hit the helmet or whatever. Not to take any credit away from the great Australian team but as they say Bucknor, err… Fortune favors the brave. Putting Bucknor aside, the Oz team had too many match winners. Gilchrist coming down so low in the batting order in tests and managing to counter attack was a great sight. Continuing with my love hate relationship for them, I am delighted to see that their pride has been crushed, first by India and the subsequent last rites completed by the South Africans. The infamous Aussie tantrumatic ego has been crushed like an insect under the shoe of a sadistic heavyweight wrestler. We distinctly heard the most loved-and-hated insect get squished and the gooey juices of ozzie pride ooze out from the Steyned bats of Duminy and co. I wish Duminy can continue to become an all time great and not follow the likes of another young man, whose name might have me arrested at Dubai airport, ‘As If’ he were Lord Voldemort.
In the last few months, we have seen England thrash South Africa, South Africa edge past Australia, India thulp England, Sri Lanka somehow scrape through to beat Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (‘recording’ a 6 for 5 in the Finals, a score extremely difficult even in book cricket!!) and then lose to Pakistan only to bounce back and inflict such a humiliating loss that Malik is no more Maalik. My nerd permutations and combinations teacher would have smiled and maybe some professor at an IIM would be using Excel to work on a probabilistic table and making next year CAT aspirants’ lives sadder with the play of statistics, results, facts, inferences, judgments and throw strange questions at the unsuspecting minds of CAT 2009 test takers. Some professors, I tell you, get beaten up by wives at home and derive sadistic pleasure by setting tough question papers! It is amusing to rewind because I was seriously considering a PhD in Data Interpretation some years ago – good, I can now joke at the Prof Calculuses of the world and instead lead life like a true ‘Colour King’ 🙂
Abbaaa, I need an editor who can make me shut up, but this is my blog, so what the hell! Focus, focus!
Given that I have been into account / relationship management for a while and that too in the IT industry, I have faced situations where certain key resources quit for doing something else. Some joined competition, some went to pursue further studies, some went back offshore, some decided to change from IT and become movie stars, some went on long maternity leaves before quitting etc. Clients also want to know how companies handle planned or unplanned turnover. To cut to the chase, succession planning is an important aspect of the game – short, medium and long term planning is a must to continue to deliver results (solutions) seamlessly. Given the volatile nature of the industry, a plan A and a plan B is a necessary table stake. It cannot just be a meaningless template filling activity but has to be a genuine planning exercise.
Australia obviously lost their plot in the succession planning game. Too many biggies retired within short intervals and existing players have also lost form. While I would still not laugh at their batting, but the bowling department has been completely replaced by a set of successors who are spirited but ordinary. They do not have the potential to scale up immediately either. Warne, the wizard, has been replaced by spinners, some of whom are almost his age but would certainly not find it easy to get selected in a Ranji trophy team. The Aussies have promoted Warner as an opening batsman in ODIs – he hasn’t played a first class match yet, they say. Such a man is replacing Gilly at the top of the batting order – this is like asking a fresher to scale up and become a project manager for a while. Of course, this may work but you don’t expect such moves from a side that took ages to get Hussey into the team. Slater had to go because Langer and Hayden sealed the opener’s slots. Brett Lee is going through a bad phase. Symonds continues to drink like a fish or go fishing or call someone a lump of shit and then say sorry again. Most unfortunately, his all round capabilities on the cricket field have become history. Lee, Symonds, Ponting, Hussey and the rest of the team, including their coach, big B, Buchan anna desperately need tantromatic cosmic consulting. Sreesanth, in his idle time has probably bowled some Chota Chetan spells. Now each of them needs a navaratna stone ring to rediscover form. Lord Sreekumaran Bhajjinathan has said that if any Ozzie cricketer reads this post, they must forward the URL to at least 10 other Australian team members from their local cricket teams within 15 minutes, otherwise, they will lose their mojo forever to other teams. So much for a team that boasted about the strengths of their clubs, state cricket format & infrastructure. IPL, the ‘non state actor’, has terrorized Australian cricket as well, so much so that local players are not financially motivated enough and the Australians have near shored batting services to McCullum. Of course, Hayden and Symmo started sledging …. But what the hell!
Pakistan’s performance is binary – no model can successfully predict the following:
a. How many runs they will score in a match with 75% plus minus accuracy?
b. Who will be the captain?
c. Who will be the bowlers?
d. Younis Can – Younis cannot?
Heard yesterday at Lahore airport, the Paki team is on its way to Kolkata to get training from Padmashri P C Sorkar so that they can wave their magic wands – what a shrewd strategy! Miandad has gone back to relationship building with the D.
The Indians are doing well, thanks to their bench strength in the bowling department and good form that the batsmen have maintained. Dhoni and Kirsten seem to be doing a good job too. One difference has been the ominous form of Gambhir. Sehwag, who had completely forgotten how to hold a bat is fortunately back to doing what he does best. Given that 3 or 4 spinners are also vying for attention, Kumble’s poor form and subsequent retirement does not seem to have caused much trouble.
The poorest succession planning was demonstrated by the once mighty West Indians. Today’s team has Gayle, Chanderpaul and Sarwan – otherwise the rest of the batting is as brittle as Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. The latter teams have not had to bother about succession planning because they hardly met with success in the first place. Ultimate sulker, Habibul Bashar and company, mass transferred to ICL. Shakib al Hassan, Mortaza and others have probably brought more cheer to their country than the sulking internationals turned ICL players. I am too lazy just like the New Zealanders to comment on that team. The Kiwis have been a fringe team for too long. Barring one or two performances now and then, they are probably just a bit better than the West Indians. Today, their librarian captain is their leading batsman as well as bowler as well as fielder!
Hmm … the bottom line is that given the amount of cricket that is being played, there needs to be sufficient bench strength and every now and then opportunities have to be given to the next generation players. We must keep trying out Murali Vijay, Bhadrinath, maybe Pujara, Tiwari, Kohli etc. But on the wicket keeping front, I don’t see Karthick or Parthiv not screwing up again – enough chances have been provided and India needs a different back up. The captain, Dhoni has to keep taking breaks to allow for a second wicketkeeper as well as groom the next captain. The Aussies acknowledge Clarke as the next skipper but I am not sure who could be India’s next captain. This is a good problem to have, given the current context but as history has shown in all spheres of life, the life cycle curve is not unreal. What goes up may go up further but has to come down eventually before going up again. But if planning is done well in advance and adequate steps are put in place, consistency can be maintained and time to go up again after a decline can be minimized too.
The above blah blah makes me feel that in today’s tough economic times, companies like McKinsey should start a cricket consulting wing. They have huge opportunities to re-organize / restructure the existing set up and set strategic goals, vision and mission statements for the teams, exploit brand building opportunities and like IPL, the entire cricketing game can be given a relook. 4P or is it 7Ps of marketing, 7S, Porter – name it and all strategic models can be used by the strategic consultants. Today, some of the ivy league B schools’ alumni in NY city are busy trying to figure out how many centimeters from Times Square should Nair set up a chai shop or Rehman set up a kabab cart for maximizing ROI. Being in Pittsburgh, I was shocked to know that minimum ticket price for the American football super bowl game is about 2000 dollars. The heavily loaded green billed people are ready to shell out 20000 to 40000 dollars to watch a 3 hour game. Mind boggling figures, to me at least! Hmmm …. Cricket has too many segments, 20-20, 50-50 and Test matches that cater to different people (with overlaps, as well). But there could still be a huge amount of money to be made, improvements to be brought about at the highest and obviously at grass roots level in all cricket playing nations.
Talking anything more is letting out my business ideas and all I can do now is to ask you to share any ideas you may have. Thanks for your time and patience to go through this long post and now that you have, do share your ideas. If you think, cricket is a pious game and commercial thinking will be as catastrophic as the Slamdog Millionaire match between England & WI, think differently. Let us see how Web 2.0 can throw up ideas and what social networking can do to the lovely and lucrative game of cricket. We could alternatively look to get just one dollar from the 2 billion odd cricket followers every year to live life happily ever after.