Cricket – a game that almost all Indians have grown up watching, playing and enjoying religiously. I have been no exception to having a childhood dream of becoming a cricketer, however, I never pursued the dream seriously as a professional life goal. In April this year, I was given an opportunity to live that dream to a very small extent but the experience was fantastic. With the onset of cricketing extravaganza, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and India’s winning streak, specially the electrifying battle with Pak, I decided to publish this piece which was lying in my drafts for some time now.
Every year, as a part of engaging the alumni of my alma mater, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI), a cricket tournament is organised. I have had the honour to be on the Board of EDI Alumni Association(EDIAA) and have been actively involved in organising EDI Premiere League (EPL) over the past three years. It is the flagship event of EDIAA wherein maximum number of alumni participate, many even come to Ahmedabad from different parts of the country to play the game, network and bond with everyone. This year, one of the franchisees decided to not buy the team (yes, the format of the tournament is quite similar to IPL except for the fact that you buy the team with real money but pick the players via auction within a limited number of points), and I was insisted on buying a team myself for the tournament to happen successfully. Thankfully one of my batchmates, Meet Jain, with whom I had played in previous seasons, agreed to be my co-owner without giving any second thoughts. At that time, our only purpose was to enjoy the game in our own way and didn’t think about winning the tournament.
Here are some of the lessons I learnt from this wonderful experience:
1) An open mind, opens various doors
I had played cricket passionately during my school and college days, I used to be an all-rounder player as well as captained my teams. However, in the last decade or so, my interest in this sport had subsequently reduced as I didn’t play enough. In fact, in the last 3 years, my only encounter with cricket had been EPL. I had even given up on batting and only focused on bowling, that too medium pace. This year’s tournament gave me a chance to emerge from an ordinary player to a valuable player as well as a fairly successful captain and I think keeping an open mind played a crucial role in the entire process. Since I had been only playing once a year, I felt like the net practice was key to improve my game and that of others. I regularly took inputs from other younger players of our team, which not only helped me get better at bowling but also led me to relearn the sport. I contributed to the team by taking 5 wickets in 5 matches and 6 dismissals while fielding.
It is rightly said, the mind is like a parachute, it works only when it is open. There is no age or time to unlearn, relearn and learn new things. History is full of examples where imminent personalities have achieved so much by keeping their mind open and constantly working on improving themselves.
2) Master the art of observation
I have always been a keen observer and similarly when it came to previous seasons of EPL, I have been observant right from the time a franchise owner would scout for players and bid accordingly in the auction. A good team on paper isn’t a confirmation for winning the tournament but it certainly does help to have a team with a majority of A category players. When we got into auction, I had done my homework on a few players and prepared a tentative list. During the auction, while I was bidding for players, Meet was forming a team on paper and keeping a check on the balance between batsmen & bowlers. At the end of the day, we had a fairly decent team which had the capacity to give a fight to other seemingly stronger teams. The practice sessions gave me an opportunity to observe the game of our players and motivate everyone to work on their areas of improvement while sharpening their strengths. Having played EPL earlier, I was aware of the mindset of other team owners & captains. I took inspiration from their positives and created a rough strategy to target their limitations which made a difference while playing the tournament.
I believe that you can always learn from observations. The curiosity to learn from your surroundings helps keep you on your toes mentally and there is no limit on gaining insights. It expands your mind and brings in different perspectives to a certain thing or situation.
3) Small steps lead to big changes
Our first match was against a team which had not just been finalists in last 3 years but also won the trophy twice. Some of our teammates had come from outside Ahmedabad and it was the first time we met them before the match began. I knew that winning this game would lift the morale of our team, so the focus was to first get the best out of our local regular players and gradually give responsibility to the outsiders. My message to the team was simple, to just play our natural game, go ahead over by over as things progress. Initially, we had a few errors due to lack of coordination on the field but as soon as we started taking wickets of the opponents, the players got into the rhythm and with contribution of each one of them, we won the first match like a boss! Our opening pair finished the innings without giving their wickets and it raised our confidence to the next level. We approached the consecutive games with the same mindset and eventually got to the top of the points table unbeaten in the tournament.
Sometimes we are too much focused on the end goal, which might be a thousand miles away, but we miss out on the small steps which ultimately lead to either a delay in reaching our target or falling off the path. It is important to give your best at the present moment and keep walking in the right direction with perseverance and patience.
4) Take advice but do what feels right to you
For the first two matches, my co-owner was managing things on the field as he has been regularly playing cricket every week since many years and knows the dynamics of the game better than me. However, in the third match, somehow the onus of decision making in the field came on me. Initially, I was a little bewildered and kept asking for suggestions from a few of my teammates who were close to me. At one point in time, a few other players joined in and kept telling me what changes should be done which left me confused even further. I took a brief moment and told myself that I will follow my own instinct, trust my understanding of the game and take my own decisions. I had to make a certain change in the bowling which was a tough decision as that would have left some key players unhappy, but it was much required for us to win the game. The result was that we won the match and my move was appreciated by many. Since then, I had been in-charge of captaincy for all the games and I made decisions in the favor of the team without looking at individual interests.
In life, many a times we approach others for decisions that affect our life in small and big ways. I have been someone who always listens to others and specially in those particular areas where I consider others to be better than me, I have based my decisions on their words. It is easy to get influenced and even when the other person might be correct in their opinion, their advice may not necessarily work for you. Always listen to your gut, apply your mind and take your decisions accordingly. It is an important lesson that I have learnt lately that you should not take an emotional decision just because it will upset people who are the closest to you. Consider the bigger picture and choose what is in the best interest and highest good in that situation.
5) Magic happens when you surrender to the higher force
I had this ritual of surrendering to Lord Krishna before walking on the ground for toss, before the innings began, before arranging the field and before each ball that I bowled. I used to let Him be the charioteer while I focused on my dharma/duty. I gave my best in the game, bowled really well, took wickets, fielded much beyond my own expectations (had the highest number of dismissals next to a wicket keeper’s tally and the commentator would candidly joke that BCCI is so impressed with my fielding that they want me to be Indian cricket team’s fielding coach😂😂), kept the spirit of the team high and led from the front.
It is very easy and natural for us to work from ego consciousness and think that everything is under our control. We want credit in our name for the achievements and most often than not look for someone to blame or find an excuse in case of any loss or failure. But the real magic happens when we shift from ego to surrender and let the higher force sail us through the journey. It not only makes it easier but also worthwhile.☺☺
So, this was all about my learning from the amazing experience I had playing the tournament. Cricket is a team sport and ultimately, it is the team effort and contribution of each and every individual that leads to victory and with no exception, we emerged out as winners lifting the much coveted trophy of EPL. I thank all my teammates, opponents, organizers and supporters for giving me this opportunity to learn and grow. Cheers to SPARTANS! Aahoo! Aahoo! Aahoo!
I hope this piece of article adds value in your journey and I pray that you emerge as a winner in life☺☺