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Game theory: What cricket taught Keki Mistry about management

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My biggest learning from cricket is teamwork. Cricket is a team sport wherein every player who is either a specialist or an all-rounder has to perform their respective roles. The game teaches you to think about the team first rather than just yourself and this is also true in a workplace environment.

Game theory: What cricket taught Keki Mistry about management
To say that cricket in India evokes a passion like no other sport is an understatement. It is in the heart of every Indian and just mentioning the magic word of ‘cricket’ will grab everybody's attention – it has the ability to touch a million hearts.
I have always been very fond of cricket and am an ardent fan, having followed it from the time I was ten years old. In fact, I used to play a fair bit of cricket myself.
Unfortunately, I never managed to make it to any league or any other higher levels. I was also a trained boxer during my younger days and closely followed the boxing career of the legendary Muhammad Ali - but cricket is something that has stayed with me.
In the pre-television era, I made sure I stayed up late at night and listened to the engrossing radio commentary. It lucidly described either the marvellous straight drives of Sunil Gavaskar against the mighty Caribbean quartet of pacers or the classy late-cuts by GR Viswanath.
Thanks to evolving technology, even today whenever I am travelling, I continue to watch the game on dedicated apps on my handheld device.
Watching cricket matches is my favourite pastime. Even if I don’t get to see any of the IPL or our Team India’s matches, I ensure I record the entire match and then later watch most of it at night.
I am very keen on watching the 50-over game, which is completely different from the 20-over or the T-20 game. The 50-over game has a unique charm.
T-20 is a little bit of chance and quite fast where things can go wrong with just one or two mistakes. Conversely, the 50-over game allows the team to come back into the game even if it loses a couple of quick wickets or falls into some difficulty. So, for me, 50-over cricket is the ideal format.
My biggest learning from cricket is teamwork. Cricket is a team sport wherein every player who is either a specialist or an all-rounder has to perform their respective roles.


Eleven players come together with different skill sets for a common cause. The game teaches you to think about the team first rather than just yourself and this is also true in a workplace environment.
Teamwork in the office ensures no important information is left out and everybody is fully involved. Working efficiently as part of a team is incredibly important for any organisation.
Whether it is on the cricket pitch or in the boardroom, good teamwork and seamless coordination help to instil discipline.
In a team sport like cricket, you need to be a performer and a leader. Man management is key.
For instance, the West Indies team of the '70s and the Australian team of the '90s were teams that required their captains to manage the egos of their strong players as each team member was a star performer.
Similarly, in the corporate world; leaders have to reinforce every individual is important and their contribution will lead to the team’s success. Like any organisation, the game allows each one to shine and change the course of the game, while also ensuring that no one is greater than the game.
Cricket is a great leveller. For instance, when an in-form star player suddenly loses his form, it is time for other players to pick up their game. Teams that manage to do this, win consistently. Drawing parallels, one cannot rely on a few star employees for an organisation’s long-term success.
One of my most memorable experiences I would say was watching the 2011 world cup at the Wankhede stadium. The final winning stroke from the captain, MS Dhoni, during the exhilarating final, was an extremely proud and memorable moment.
My passion for the game keeps me hooked on it. I try to participate in the game by being on the ground and cheering for my favourite team, including our office (HDFC Cricket) team.
I am eagerly looking forward to the upcoming T-20 world cup. India has a very strong team and I feel we have a very good chance of winning the world cup. We have good quality fast bowlers, a very good batting line-up and an extremely determined team. I wish them the very best.
–Keki Mistry is the Vice Chairman and CEO of HDFC Ltd. The views expressed are personal. For more Game theory pieces, click here
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