Indian Cricket – Asking the Wrong Question. Not Dhon(i)

As we head into the Cricket World Cup next year, the public discussion centres around one question – Should Mahendra Singh Dhoni be in the team? And that does not bode well for Indian cricket.

The critical question is – What will it take for the Indian Cricket Team to win the World Cup?

The critical question comes first and dictates all efforts. Every other question and answer has to be subordinated to the critical question.

This requires disciplined effort.

It is much easier to focus on individuals, their performances and their claim for a place on the team. Far tougher is the effort to begin with the task and its requirements; that then lead to the identification of skills and capabilities, which in turn, throws up the team configuration and the performance-based names of individual players.

We, on the other hand, are busy talking up or playing down the merits of Dhoni.

It is good to ask a pointed question – Will Dhoni’s absence from the World Cup team cost India the 2019 World Cup?

Shane Warne was the man-of-the-match in the 1999 World Cup semi-final and final. He was already a cricketing great by the time of the 2003 World Cup. No less a crucial player was he to Australia in comparison to Dhoni for India. Two days before the World Cup was to begin, Warne tested positive for a banned substance and had to return home in disgrace. What was the impact on Australia’s performance? They steamrolled all opponents and won the Cup!

If we believe that Dhoni’s absence will mean India are not going to win it, then it suggests this – the way we regard the game and it’s success factors is in stark contrast to how the Australians would have approached Warne’s sudden leave from the team. The Australians raised their game even more when it mattered. It becomes possible when you believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; that the team is bigger than any one individual.

If the focus and energies of all the deliberations within the team establishment and outside is around Dhoni, it may indicate the underlying belief that a part is so prized that the whole is always lesser in the absence of the part; in other words, there are individuals that are almost as big as a team.

What if we have a team that believes so much in the whole being greater than its parts, that it continues to believe in winning even if Virat Kohli were to not play, forget about Dhoni?!

Is it a good thing for a team to have that kind of conviction and self-belief?Of course, it is!

Such conviction and self-belief comes with changing what we talk about. Changing the conversation from does this player deserve to be in the team to what will it take to win the World Cup. Yes, the answer may also include the cricketing acumen that Dhoni so clearly has. Having said that, we must ask – is this an individual capability or can it be a team capability?

When the whole is thought to be greater than the parts, then even cricketing acumen will be looked at as a team capability to be worked upon and acquired. And were we to adopt that perspective, a team learning process would have been in place to tap into Dhoni’s cricketing acumen, turn it from tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge and convert it into a systemic capability.

Clarity begins with asking the right question and not assuming anything. Not asking who should play first. But starting with – What does it take to win.



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