I read a friend’s Facebook status post, wondering about the changes we are witnessing in the Indian team’s performance. To be precise, his questions were “how so much” and “how so quickly”.
A while ago, I had read an extremely well-conceived article by Cricinfo’s Siddharth Monga on the contribution of the “system” to India’s Champion’s Trophy win last night. Here it is.
Armed with the thoughts that came while reading Monga’s thoughtful piece, I set about trying to construct a quickfire “thesis” to explain the path charted by the Indian cricket team
Part A: how so much?
Ans: The direction that a cricket team – correction, an Indian cricket team goes can be largely explained by measuring the following areas:
(A) the leadup to selecting the final 15 who set off for the tour – including resourcefulness, non-compromise and vision,
(B) Captain’s performance as a player
(C) The captain-coach duo and their (interpersonal) vibes within the team including handling of individual players as well as coaching staff,
(D) Form of individual stars in the team, if any; and
(E) Expectations set by the leadership team from the players, series by series (completely on-field stuff, nothing interpersonal here). This includes flexible thinking.
[A, B & D are extremely version specific; hence same set of people can produce different performance curves in different versions of cricket]
- Ganguly's team, in rebuilding phase of 2000-2003, thrived partly on A & B, a lot on C & D and little less on E (except uncompromising integrity).
- During the latter parts of Ganguly era (late 2004-2005) the team form dipped due to partial dips in B, C & D.
- In Dravid’s (2005-mid 2007) era the emphasis on A & E became supreme; B was very good too, for most parts. However all of that was completely undone by the then coach Chappell's effect in undermining C - so much so that the huge minus in B led to underperformance in D as well.
- MSD's 1st era (2007--2010), on the other hand, revived team form almost entirely based on C, D & E. In Tests, B almost did not come into picture, such was the overwhelming effect of D [Big four + Viru + Zaheer]!! A got toned down to moderate – which is fine if D is good.
- Dhoni’s 2nd era (early 2011 to end 2012) saw a virtual disappearance of D, while B did not come up to compensate. This made BIG difference, even as A & E remained very similar and C dipped only marginally compared to Dhoni’s 1st era. [Not by coincidence, Era-2 was the first days for captain with new coach]
- Dhoni’s 3rd era is just starting. D is not likely to reach the stratospheric heights of his 1st era anytime soon (certainly not in Tests). I agree majorly to this article. By accident or by design, Team India's A has shot up in past 3 months, even compensating for seniors' exodus contributing to instability in D (it is also looking up, thanks to performing youngsters). In fact, A has fared so well that D (at least in Champion’s Trophy) was a factor of A!! Decisive A has also led to decisiveness in E. Factor C, while still very good, is now so very different from Era 1. These days we see an animated Dhoni who actually tells youngsters what to do…and I believe he is now in sync with India's "new" coach Duncan Fletcher.
Part B: how so quickly?
A & E are the only components that are largely controlled by intent rather than chance. While teams thrive or perish on ‘culture changes’ in either direction it is foregone that culture changes take a lot of time.
A & E can be implemented in a very short time-frame. It is only the start, though. Any major changes in A & E, implemented too quickly, might create a shock-wave in ‘good’ (read ‘comfortable’) times, leading to adverse impact on results. However in THIS case, major changes in A & E were done when the team performance was close to its nadir (i.e. around when Dhoni’s 2nd era was closing out). Things that would seem to be “upsetting” otherwise...those were perhaps now seen as a “Ray of Hope”.
Everything, absolutely EVERYTHING can happen when people chuck out the resistance and look forward to a change.
That ends my thesis, responding to Shrikant Subramanian’s Facebook question. [wiping brow]
Exciting? Indeed. I was just as excited while force-fitting the pieces of the puzzle. Thanks to you for appreciating. And at this humbling moment of success I would like to thank my…zz-zz-zz-zz
Crappy?? Yippie kay yay…..all theses necessarily are.