Key insight from the Indian cricket team’s flame out from the world cup 2007

Lots of articles have been written on this topic and in the Sunday edition of the Hindu newspaper over 25 letters were published citing one reason after another for the debacle. I’m sure the desi blogosphere is agog with activity as well. I’m at Boston, MA since last night. My dear friend Sreedhar Narayanan picked me up from the Logan airport and we started driving towards his home in Shrewsbury. It was an hour long drive and since cricket is on top of everyone’s minds, we started discussing the Indian team. We went over the reasons:
1. Is it passion? I’m of the view that for us to succeed significantly in anything we need passion. But the whole of India is so passionate about cricket and the Indian team is especially passionate. 2. Is it too much money? This is the single most often cited reason by the people who wrote to the Hindu newspaper – too many endorsement deals and other money chasing the players and they lost their interest in playing cricket. This can’t be true as well. The amount of money that the sportspersons in the USA make, be it basketball, baseball, ice hockey, american football etc, is ungodly. The money these people will make in a year will put the entire career earnings of Indian players to shame. But the kind of games these people play are also similarly great. 3. Lack of killer instinct? This is another oft cited reason by everyone. Not true. Even in the last world cup the Indian team reached the finals after beating Pakistan. That game with Pakistan is arguably India’s finals considering the sheer mental pressure. If we don’t have the killer instinct who does? 4. Lack of teamwork? Yes, there are a few players about whom one could say they chase personal glory than team glory. But this is again incorrect. We have done well so many times as a team that this couldn’t be the reason. 5. Lack of talent? The Indian team has such brilliant stars like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid, Ganguly and others that on paper it is arguably amongst the most talented teams. 6. Inability to play under pressure?
See point no.3 above. We definitely have played well under more pressure than most teams experience. In fact, as Greg Chappell says the Indian team is under undue pressure every time they play regardless of whether it is a world cup match. This is because the unrealistic expectations of 1.2B people are riding on the match. At this point, we ran out of reasons and we didn’t have a clear reason. Sreedhar mentioned inconsistency. We play well on some occasions and on some others we don’t. But what is the reason behind this inconsistency? We started discussing and Sreedhar finally hit the nail on its head – work ethic and I concurred. Work ethic is a quantity I would say is severely lacking in India (Sukumar *entering protective flame suit*). If you look at the Australian team or the Americans in general it is the work ethic that shines through. You come in day after day work hard, do your best. This is something that we as a country have not learnt and it is the singular thing that is standing in the way of India achieving the greatness it so much deserves. The Indian team is the finest example of this lacuna. One of my relatives works in Hyundai’s Chennai factory and he told me about the Korean work ethic. You have to come in at 8am no matter what. No grandmother is sick, bus breakdowns, milkman was late type of excuses. Get your heads down and work. I’m told that the Chinese have this work ethic (I’m yet to visit that great country). In America, where I worked for over 10 years, I saw people coming in at a consistent time, worked hard to the best of their abilities. Yes, they take breaks but not 1 hour lunch breaks, half hour coffee breaks, half hour breakfast breaks, afternoon snack breaks etc. It takes a great attitude to come in everyday without fail and do your work to the best of your abilities. We on the other hand are somewhat satisfied if we just stayed in the office for 12 hours without regard to what is getting accomplished in reality. Sreedhar was quoting Ricky Ponting that he would practice enough to hit the stumps from anywhere atleast 50percent of the time. It takes that kind of practice day after day to make wins happen. Unless we as a country develop that type of work ethic, our dreams of dominating the world will remain just that – dreams. Is there hope? I have worked in Mumbai for over 2 years and I have seen this work ethic in Mumbai. In pouring rain the city goes to work. The dabbawalas in Mumbai get better than 6 sigma quality. Chennai is getting there but not yet like Mumbai. Bangalore I don’t have experience in. Let’s hope we can imbue this work ethic every where and beat the world.


  1. Anonymous said March 27, 2007, 11:20 am:

    One other thing Sukumar…lack of good selection policy. Look at Team Australia…you can be in the team if you are really good in atleast 2 out 3 deparments – Batting, Bowling or Fielding. If we apply this criteria..I think only Yuvaraj will be in team. May be Sachin and Dravid considering their expectional batting skills (please note skills not results recently!!). Rest are all out including Ganguly, Sehwag. I really don’t know how Ajit Agarkar can be in team with doing anything!! Last I remember he scored 100 in Lords long time ago!

    After all these, I am sure we will be talking/writing similar comments after WC 2011 (where Bangladesh might win!!). I wish I am wrong !!

  2. Anonymous said March 27, 2007, 4:44 pm:

    Well Well.. I see all two of my ex-bosses names in one post – Ramesh and Sreedhar 🙂

    I agree with Sreedhar 100%. There is a great deal of honesty towards what we do here compared to an average person in South East Asia. One of my uncles who visited Sri Lanka laments the same. Also we feel contended with short term success and leave strategic wins aside. Wars are won one battle at a time.

  3. Anonymous said March 28, 2007, 3:06 am:

    Why isn’t there a tiered pay-for-performance model?

    1st round out – Each player gets 5 lakhs

    Finals – Each player gets 3 crore

    Wins – Each player gets 5 crore etc

    There is a mismatch between incentives and results. Just like in the US sub-prime loan industry. Here players get paid their 3 crores no matter how the team perform. The sub prime mortgage lenders get paid their commission no matter what the quality of the customer.

    Also the pay should be tied to the performance of the entire team.

  4. Anonymous said March 28, 2007, 8:44 am:

    Good point Ramesh. Team Australia also picks for current form not past performance.

  5. Anonymous said March 28, 2007, 8:45 am:


    Good point as well. Maybe we do get contented with short term success. But that is a function of the work ethic. A strong work ethic makes you focus on long term success.

  6. Anonymous said March 28, 2007, 8:46 am:

    good one Arun. I hear that the BCCI is considering a pay for performance type model. And yes, it should be tied to team performance as well.

  7. Anonymous said March 28, 2007, 3:04 pm:

    I think the reason behind our dismal show in the world cup and in general inconsistent performance in cricket is the income disparity between a star player and an also ran player.

    Let me explain: In India most of the families depend on single income for survival. When it comes to sportsmen, if they make it big, they feel the natural need to cling on to their position of power and their ‘Earning Opportunity’. The average sportsmen don’t earn enough. And they don’t also have any other means of supporting their families. In other countries, players are truly passionate about the sports and their lives and families are not as much dependent on “making money” as is the case in India.

    I believe this puts a lot of pressure on the players. Also, BCCI takes a cut from the players advertising contracts. That makes them reluctant to drop non-performing stars. And that is the second reason for the state of Cricket in India. For those who don’t know, BCCI is registered in Bermuda and they do not disclose their books. There is a case filed by an Indian against BCCI to make their Financial Records public. BCCI needs to be made a not-for-profit organization with no ‘Quota’ system for selection. Only then the BCCI will stop thinking about making money and improving the quality of the team.


    Milind Sathe

  8. Anonymous said March 31, 2007, 3:08 am:

    I agree with Ramesh. The reason we fail is because there is too much politics involved in selection. When you have the passion then your work ethics cannot be poor. You will do best and work hard regardless of whether you are paid or have good endorsements etc.

    Politics in a bane not only in cricket but it all fields. I am sure there are people with poor work ethics all over the world. The only difference is that they cannot survive/progress any where else except India. As long as you know how to work around this politics you can get away with lot of things here. If we can change this, India will be unstoppable.

  9. Anonymous said April 3, 2007, 6:42 am:

    Interesting perspective Milind. I didn’t know BCCI is registered in Bermuda. – Sukumar

  10. Anonymous said April 3, 2007, 6:45 am:


    There definitely is politics. Not sure i agree with the 2nd part of your comment. there are several examples of passion without work ethics. work ethics is something that needs to cultivated. some people also say that because of a general lack of manufacturing industries in India, work ethics are not there which are traditionally learnt at the shop floor or in the military or by working in foreign countries where there is a strong work ethic.