The sport of cricket has a known history beginning in the late 16th century. Having originated in south-east England, it became the country’s national sport in the 18th century and has developed globally in the 19th and 20th centuries. International matches have been played since 1844 and Test cricket began, retrospectively recognized in 1877. Cricket is the world’s second most popular spectator sport after association football. (Source: Wikipedia).
As an Indian, the cricket bug bit me early on with hours spent in games of street cricket, local club games and watching games on television with my friends. As a cricket fanatic and project management professional, I can’t help but draw the parallel between the two. In this blog, I hope to share my views on lessons project managers can learn from the game of cricket.
Planning is the secret sauce
At the outset, the game can look like 11 players trying to spend an entire day on the field waiting for something to happen. As you spend more time with the game, you realize the amount of planning that goes into it.
From pitch conditions to team composition based on the amount of left handed batsmen in the opposite side to bowling plans for each batsman to batting order to field positions, it’s just a huge planning exercise. Some pre-game and some during the game. The test cricket format especially is a treat for those who relish the strategic side. Declaring just in time to give the opposition 15-20 overs to play on a penultimate day can prove to be a game changing tactic. Taking the new ball a few overs late helps bowlers use the old ball for reverse swing and give batsmen a tough time. In case of day and night matches the late evening dew can be a deciding factor for choosing whether to bat first or chase at the toss. There are just so many nuances that teams can use for planning on and off the field and a good plan can make all the difference on a given day.
Make most of the resources you have
As a kid I was fascinated to see teams send in a lower order batsman as a “Night Watchman” in case they lost an important wicket just before the end of the day’s play. Their job was to protect the next higher order batsman and stay put till the start of next day’s play. In 2006, Australia’s fast pace bowler and lower order batsman, Jason Gillespie walked out as the night watchman. He ended up scoring a mammoth 201 (not out) giving his team a massive upside and an eventual win.
There are so many cases of part time bowlers going to on to change fortunes for the team. It’s 1993, Indian is playing South Africa and has been bundled out for a paltry 195. With five runs needed in the last over, South Africa is in a very comfortable position to win. India’s captain Azharuddin takes a chance gamble by giving Sachin Tendulkar the last over. And guess what, he pulled one out of the hat and denied South Africa a seemingly easy win.
As a captain, you have to make most of the resources, not just people, but weather conditions, crowd support and anything available to you on that given day. When 11 people come together to offer everything they have, they can end up beating the best side in the world. Even history agrees!
Change your play based on conditions
Cricket like any other game is very dynamic. The game could change suddenly and who ever holds the nerve could end up on top. What makes some captains the best in business is their foresight and match awareness. This thread on Quora sums up some of the most famous on field decisions by captains that made the difference on that day.
Over the course of the game, be it 20 overs, 50 overs or 5 days, things change every minute. The captain has to read the situations carefully, foresee risks and opportunities and take the right course of action. That’s what makes the game so good; every minute matters!
Team is always greater than an individual
This is not unique to cricket, it applies to every team sport. The sum is always greater than the parts. Newer and less experienced teams such as Kenya, Ireland, and Afghanistan have gone on to shock oppositions and even qualify for the last 4 stage of tournaments such as the World Cup. A team that comes together for a larger purpose and plays like it has nothing to lose is a team you need to be wary of.
The captain has a very important role to play in rallying the team around the keep them focused on the purpose. Once aligned they can take on any challenge and overcome any formidable opposition in the world.
People + Tools + Culture
In the 70s, the Indian team used to sail to the Caribbean Islands for tournaments. It used to take them days to get there and a lot of the team members had day jobs to sustain their passion for cricket. Times have changed. It’s a glamorous, money spinning sporting spectacle. Technology advancements, data analytics, and social media have taken cricket to a whole new level.
With the advent of sports analytics, teams are employing advanced video analytics to know more about the opposition and also plan training strategy for players. Sensors are being added to the cricket bat to capture valuable data points. These data points are then used by teams for planning and by broadcasters to give spectators an insightful viewpoint to the game.
With all this evolution, some things still not changed, thankfully! It still takes 11 players to come together and bat, bowl and field well. It still takes exemplary teamwork to win against all odds. It still takes hours at the gym and the nets to better your game.
In the context of the game, technology will only further enable people to perform better and create a winning culture.
It’s fascinating to me how the spheres of life intersect and that there are so many valuable lessons to help us keep evolving. For a game that just uses a bat, a ball, 6 wickets and 4 bails, it surely gives us so much to enjoy, observe and learn. Well, that’s just the fanatic in me talking. Hope you enjoyed the insights! As for me, a final between India & Pakistan is just what the doctor ordered.
By Nikhil Daddikar, Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies
About Celoxis: Celoxis is world’s leading online PPM software, rated among 3 best project management software tools in the world and is deployed by more than 2000+ customers globally, from mid-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies, across industry verticals. To know more visit www.celoxis.com.