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 concluding part he traces lessons for leaders from worlds cups since 1999. 


Leadership Lessons From Cricket World Cups – Part 1


The 1999 World Cup returned to England. A gritty Australia, under a very hard working Steve Waugh, had a cakewalk against Pakistan in the final. The Australian domination was well and truly being established. Australia would now win the World Cup an incredible three consecutive times.

The 1999 World Cup however will be remembered for other reasons. Sachin Tendulkar lost his father during the World Cup. He flew to India for his cremation and went back to play Kenya. A silent-and-in-mourning Tendulkar scored a hundred that will be remembered forever. Though the century came against a low-ranked Kenya, the situation in which it came made the whole cricketing world salute the man’s commitment and professionalism. 

This brings us to the sixth lesson on leadership – Make yourself bigger than your problems.

Sometimes, life presents situations which are personally tragic. Yet, Sachin showed how we can rise above our own circumstances and contribute for the larger team cause. Though Sachin was not the captain, he was the pivot around which the team’s ambitions revolved. He was the world’s best batsman. He fulfilled his responsibility towards the immediate family by being with them in their hour of grief and also towards his cricketing family by going back to play.

Leaders must rise above their personal challenges for the sake of their extended family – their team. Though they are entitled to be vulnerable at times, as after all we are human beings, they must absorb more pressure than they give. Leadership is a complex job and that’s why you need to be up for it, or choose to be a brilliant individual contributor, like Sachin.

The 2003 World Cup had a new host – South Africa. Sachin Tendulkar was at the peak of his prowess during this tournament, which was won by Australia. They beat India in the final. Sachin emerged as the Player Of The Tournament, but was heart broken as India lost the final.

From an Indian perspective, the 2003 World Cup will be remembered for a team which was rebuilding itself under Sourav Ganguly after the match fixing scandal. Ganguly offers us the seventh lesson – Convert adversity into opportunity. 

Ganguly took over the reins of the team at a time when credibility was at its lowest. A cricket-crazy country had become cynical. By bringing India to the doorstep of the ultimate prize in cricket, he restored both pride and credibility. In your career or business, you may come across situations where you need to re-establish credibility. This is the time to see it as a challenge rather than as a problem and find ways to perform. Ganguly set the vision that India – who carried the tag of `tigers at home and lambs abroad`, especially in test cricket – must start winning abroad against teams like Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, besides of course the sub-continent teams. India eventually went on to become the Number 1 Test Playing Nation. The foundation was laid by Ganguly.

The 2007 World Cup in the West Indies was a forgettable one for India under a new captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell. Australia won yet again, beating Sri Lanka in the final. India made an early exit and it opened fissures within the team. Players were unhappy with Chappell’s attitude and strategies. He was seen as the man behind Ganguly’s sacking as captain. It was an ugly chapter in Indian cricket history. Greg eventually lost his job.

India had stalwarts in its team for the 2007 World Cup. Yet they under-performed. This brings us to the eighth lesson – Harmony is the key to success. 

Leaders must not just bank on talent. They also need to ensure team spirit and harmony. Acrimonious relationships cause deep fissures, which impact performance negatively. A well knit team with a great culture gets everyone going. They work for one another’s success and not just their own. Workplaces, like cricket dressing rooms, can perform to their potential only if there is harmony and trust amongst team members. 

The 2011 World Cup returned to India. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hailing from a small city Ranchi, was a folk hero. His success inspired small town boys to aspire for bigger things. Cricket’s geography started shifting from the metros to smaller places. Dhoni is the only captain to have two World Cups for India in two different formats – T20 in 2008 in South Africa and 50 Overs in 2011 in India.

It was India’s cup to lose as by now they were a powerhouse in all forms of cricket. The 2011 World Cup was won by India for a second time, after a gap of twenty eight years. Sri Lanka lost to India in the final after posting a competitive score. Dhoni, hitting a six to win the match and the cup at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, will forever be etched in fans’ memories. The World Cup will also be remembered for Sachin finally getting his fingers around the coveted trophy after twenty two long years and having featured in six world cups.

But the ninth lesson comes from a gentleman called Yuvraj Singh, which is, The Power Of Resilience.

He battled illness through the competition and emerged as the Player Of The Tournament. He took the onus on himself to win the cup. He was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer. His career seemed finished. He fought the disease, came back to play and retired only recently from the game.

Leaders cannot hope to get things done smoothly always. They need to go through rough patches with equanimity of mind and emerge victorious. Organisational leaders must build people like Yuvraj Singh in their team, who will take ownership, and be accountable. People like Sachin and Yuvraj are great examples of self leadership.

In the world of business, Colonel Sanders’ (of KFC) is a classic story of resilience. He faced financial distress at age 65. At that age, when most people choose retirement and are in the sunset of their lives, he started going around trying to sell his unique chicken recipe. He faced a 1,000 plus rejections. Yet, he persisted and at the age of 74, he had 600 franchises selling his trademark chicken (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoI7RqmjmY0).

Just goes to show there is no age for pursuing your dreams. Leaders must role model persistence and perseverance and build these qualities in their team. The eleventh edition of the World Cup moved to Australia and New Zealand. Brendon McCullum transformed New Zealand into an aggressive unit. New Zealand looked set to win its first world cup title. But on the day that mattered the most – the final – Australia emerged on top yet again. This brings us to the tenth lesson – Temperament is the key. 

Leadership is all about temperament – the ability to stay calm under pressure and manage expectations. When it matters, Australia simply lift their game. They did it in 1987 against England, against Pakistan in 1999, against India in 2003, against Sri Lanka in 2007 and against New Zealand in 2015. They know how to seize the key moments. Even when their rankings dropped, you could never take them lightly. The famed Aussie spirit is the stuff of legend.

It is interesting to note that England and New Zealand have come close, but never won the cup, whereas rank outsiders like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won the World Cup.

Sometimes, it is about the day, the moment. Leadership, after all, is about providing inspiration 24×7.

So, Here Is A Recap Of Leadership Lessons From Cricket World Cups:

1. Selection is the key 
2. Never take success for granted
3. Do your basics right
4. Power Of Purpose
5. Change the rules of the game
6. Make yourself bigger than your problems.7. Convert adversity into opportunity
8. Harmony is the key to success
9. The Power Of Resilience
10. Temperament is the key


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 blogspot.com and has also published over 50 articles on LinkedIn. His most celebrated book is More Than Just Papad.