Leadership lessons from sport: the W.V. Raman way

In ‘The Winning Sixer’, released formally by Anil Kumble, Raman has drawn on his own experiences, and those of other athletes, to derive leadership lessons from sport.

W.V. Raman is the current head coach of the national women’s team.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

It should come as no surprise that W.V. Raman has authored a book. The former India opener has always been one of the shrewdest voices on cricket, forthright and informed in his opinion and never shy of expressing it.

In ‘The Winning Sixer’, released formally by Anil Kumble here on Thursday, Raman has drawn on his own experiences, and those of other athletes, to derive leadership lessons from sport.

Raman, the current head coach of the national women’s team; Kumble, a former India captain; and P. Madhavan, Executive Vice-President, TVS Tyres, engaged in a lively conversation on the subject of leadership, holding in rapt attention an audience that included Roger Binny, Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane, G.R. Viswanath, Narendra Hirwani, and Mithali Raj.

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“I don't think anyone is a born leader,” said Kumble. “You just throw them in the deep end and see how they swim. As far as Indian cricket goes, you just learn on the job. I don't think there is any rule that so and so will be a perfect leader. You need to be able to step back from your personal goal and look at the team in a larger context.”

Raman agreed. “Experience is a tough teacher,” he said. “It punishes you first and teaches you later. You need to know the end result you are trying to achieve and then follow that path.”

Obvious preference

Anil Kumble has stated it is “very obvious” that modern-day cricket supporters prefer five-day Test matches to a four-day version. Kumble, who is chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee — which in March is set to discuss the proposal to shorten Tests — was speaking at an event to launch W. V. Raman’s book, ‘The Winning Sixer.’

The former India leg-spinner did not take sides, but pointed out that public opinion on the matter had been clear. “There's a debate on [whether the duration of a Test should be] four days or five days,” he said. “The current generation certainly wants five days. That's something that is very obvious.”

Kumble recalled the turbulent Australia tour of 2007-08 when his capabilities as a leader were tested to the limit. “You need a core group of players to support you. I was lucky that I had Rahul, Sourav, Sachin, and Laxman,” he said. “The game is bigger than any individual. If you think that is the final outcome you want to get to, then things fall in place. When those issues happened... as a captain you are never trained to deal with off-field issues. The support I had from the players then was immense.”

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As a captain, what did he want in a team, Kumble was asked. “It was all about having a core set of players who would contribute to the common purpose,” he said. “As a team, how well can you disguise your shortcomings? That is a critical aspect. No team can be complete. It's very difficult to get a complete team. If you have it, that's great, but it's very unlikely you are going to get that. How well can you make sure that you throw your punches at the right time? That's what matters.”

Getting all players to pull in the same direction was key, Kumble pointed out. “It all boils down to communication and respect. If you have those two things, it's not hard to align people with the common goal.”

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