Synopsis: Join the writer, an ardent cricket lover, in living the key moments of world cup history since its inaugural edition in 1975. In this two-part series, he explores the connection between management, leadership and cricket.

It is World Cup Cricket season, a carnival which every connoisseur of the game waits for. Every four years, top teams compete for cricket’s coveted trophy.

In the ’70s the teams that mattered in one day cricket were West Indies, Australia and England. Teams like India participated with neither adequate competence nor appetite. The 1975 and 1979 editions were won by the West Indies, the supremos of cricket in both test matches as well as limited overs through the ’70s and ’80s.

They had a team that was unbeatable on paper as well as on the field. They owed their supremacy not only to their talent, but to one man’s ability to pick the right people for the right job – their captain Clive Lloyd.

This presents us with the first lesson on leadership – Selection is the key. Lloyd created a legacy of great cricketers who are part of cricketing folklore. The famous pace battery in the form of Holding, Roberts, Marshall, Garner changed the rules of the game. Teams playing against West Indies lost two times – once in the mind and again on the field.

Every organisational leader must invest his energies in ensuring right people are in the team. After all, as Jim Collins, author of the celebrated book Good To Great says: “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.” (source:

Half the battle is won when the selection is right and right people are in the right roles.

The West Indies were poised to win the 1983 World Cup too. The first three editions of the World Cup were held in England. India by now were better one day cricketers. No one really gave them a chance. But they incredibly made it to the final to take on the mighty West Indies.

What changed their fortunes en route to the final was an innings of 175 by skipper Kapil Dev against Zimbabwe when the team was in dire straits. If India had lost that match, maybe they would not have made it to the knockout stages. Though they scored only 183 in the final, India lifted the Prudential Cup as an overconfident West Indies lost wickets in a hurry. That win changed Indian cricket forever.

This brings us to the second lesson – Never take success for granted. No matter how ahead you are in the race, never take competition lightly, Apple dislodged Nokia even as it sat comfortably on top, not foreseeing that innovation and enterprise were knocking loudly on its doors.

The World Cup came to the sub continent in 1987. India were also strong contenders, besides teams like West Indies, England and Pakistan. Australia was on a rebuilding phase, with Allan Border at the helm. In the final at the Eden Gardens, the unthinkable happened yet again. This time, an inexperienced Australia won the World Cup.

This brings us to the third lesson – Do your basics right. Allan Border laid the foundation of a team that eventually overtook the West Indies and became the powerhouse of cricket. The Australian dominance coincided with the decline of West Indian cricket. Australia redefined excellence in cricket and have won the World Cup an incredible five times – 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015.

Professional success is as much about discipline and hard work as it is about talent. Great teams work hard, have a great attitude, never take anything for granted and are process oriented. Australia as a cricket team offer great lessons to leaders and organisations on process discipline. A leader must ensure the means are as important as the end.

The 1992 World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand. It produced yet another unlikely winner – Pakistan. They started their campaign disastrously, but ended up beating England in the final. Imran Khan, who came out of retirement, led his team to an inspirational win.

The fourth leadership lesson that Imran, one of cricket’s greatest leaders ever, offers is, Power Of Purpose. Imran Khan wanted to build a cancer hospital in Pakistan in the name of his mother, who herself had died of the dreaded disease.He wanted to win the World Cup as that would have enabled him to build the hospital. Somewhere providence also supported as Pakistan came back from almost death in the World Cup. He believed in the cause and in his team to create history.

Leaders must drive their team to live a purpose, and not just chase targets. Business is about making this world a better place to live and not just a profit-at-all-cost activity. The great Henry Ford is supposed to have said: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” (source:

The 1996 World Cup came back to the sub-continent, with Sri Lanka also being a co-host. Sri Lanka was going through difficult times and just like India in 1983 and Pakistan in 1992, it surprised the world by beating Australia in the final. Two opening batsmen – Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana – redefined the way one day cricket was played. They attacked the bowlers upfront rather than towards the end of the innings, which was the norm up until then. So, in a way, their team `won` the match in the first fifteen overs itself.

This brings us to the fifth lesson on leadership – Change the rules of the game. In a highly dynamic and technology-driven world, set paradigms are getting irrelevant much faster. Organisations today cannot rely on the same success formulate. We need to look at different ways to succeed, and not just rely on the tried and tested methods. The tried and tested teams often did not win the trophy in cricket world cups. The phenomenon is true for organisations too.

Ola and Uber have changed the way people commute. They have changed the rules of commuting. Many people now prefer to travel by these application-based cars rather than drive their own vehicles. Who would have imagined that a chauffeur-driven air conditioned car would arrive at your doorstep within minutes? But that is a reality now.

(To be continued. The concluding part of this article will appear next Friday). 

About The Author: Hariharan Iyer is a man with many talents – Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Author, Reiki Grandmaster, Professional Anchor. He has a registered trademark for the moniker Enter-Trainer. An ex- journalist, he brings alive his unique ideas through a spread of writing. Besides books, he writes a blog BolHarryBol on and has also published over 50 articles on LinkedIn. His most celebrated book is More Than Just Papad.

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