The IPL recently drew to an exciting close amidst a rain-hit finale. However, in this cauldron of cricketing talent and tales, were there lessons beyond the pitch for the audiences? Did we learn something from the careers which were kindled, and those which were close to flickering out? Did the countless boundaries that soared over the ropes, present some alternate out-of-the box perspectives as well?
For the discerning, the IPL offered many CPL, that is, career planning lessons. In every stroke, in every ball bowled and every catch taken, there was a larger narrative at work. Hopefully, as the dust settles after yet another pulsating season, we will be able to replay those insights in our minds, as we go about our very own innings in the corporate world.
Lesson 1 from Yashasvi Jaiswal — ‘Dreams can come true’
Yashasvi Jaiswal won the emerging player of the tournament. His has been an astounding story of ascent. Only a few years ago, Jaiswal, who comes from a humble background, could scarcely have dreamt of rubbing shoulders with his heroes. However, he was determined to get there, and was willing to undergo all kinds of hardships to carve out a place for himself. He also had an unshakeable faith in his own abilities. After all, it is this faith that helped him migrate to Mumbai, work odd jobs, sleep on the grounds with the ground staff, and relentlessly practice till he got discovered. The rest, as they say, is history.
We all have dream jobs on our horizons. Yet, very few get there. It is one thing to have an organisation to aspire towards, and quite another to engage in the necessary rigour and undertake the required sacrifices to get there. Often, dream jobs remain at the level of dreams — tantalisingly out of reach. People frequently give up mentally, even before they begin, thinking the destination is too far, and that the journey will cost too much, and that they will eventually fall short in terms of the required skills. Jaiswal’s journey, however, is a rousing ode to never letting go of dreams. As the IPL often shows, ‘keep chipping away, and any target is reachable’.
Lesson 2 from Mohit Sharma — ‘Improbable comebacks are possible’
If Jaiswal was at the beginning of his journey when this season began, the veteran Mohit Sharma was staring down the barrel. Not picked at the auction, Sharma surely must have been hugely demoralised. Yet, he courageously hung in there. He was given an opportunity as a net bowler by the Gujarat Titans. Having represented India, he could have viewed this as an affront to his skills. He, however, humbly took the job, and diligently waited for the tide to turn, honing his skills in the nets as time passed by. After his team had problems with their bowling he was called in at the death. Needless to say, he grabbed the opportunity to return to the spotlight with both arms.
As age begins to catch up, people often think it is the end of their careers. They tend to lose hope, belief and the will to continue. It can be a difficult phase, because it is coupled with the realisation that one may no longer be relevant. However, as Mohit Sharma demonstrated so brilliantly in the Titan’s run to the final, an experienced hand can have much to offer — The calmness of having seen high-pressure situations before; the decision-making capability of knowing when to unleash which asset, and so on. The onus is on such experienced people though, to keep the self-belief going, and not look down upon any assignment, which comes their way. Mentally, they need to merely reframe the opportunity as a door to their ‘big time’ again.
Lesson 3 from Ajinkya Rahane — ‘Perception can be changed’
Over the last few years, Ajinkya Rahane has been unfairly labelled as a ‘plodder’. While his technique has always been impeccable, there was a general consensus emerging that he wasn’t made for the hustle bustle of T20 cricket. To say this was unfair would have been an understatement, but that’s the way perception works sometimes. Rahane took it upon himself to correct this opinion, and he emphatically did so this season. He came out, guns blazing in every single innings. To the surprise of many, he was amongst the players with the top strike rate in the tournament. He actually managed to pull a fast one on those who thought him slow!
People tend to build an aura around themselves as they go about their jobs. Employees can get slotted into categories such as ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’. This classification, often arbitrary, can be unjustified to put it mildly. That does not mean nothing can be done about it. The easy choice many take is to begin afresh somewhere else. However, if the current environment is a coveted one, things can still be done. The onus lies with the employee. If slotted as a ‘doer’, a series of presentations and reports — pertaining to matters of strategic importance to the company — can ensure people sit up and take notice. The concept of rebirth applies far beyond mainstream religions, to corporate careers too. Rahane has shown us how.
Lesson 4 from Akash Madhwal — ‘Skills can be transferred’
Akash Madhwal’s story is a truly riveting one. Till the age of 23, Madhwal had only played tape-ball and tennis-ball cricket. The Kookaburra white ball reality of the IPL, may have seemed another universe in itself. Even if that was an apparent disadvantage going in, Madhwal had picked up some very useful skills in the format he was playing. A nuanced understanding of bounce; the ability to defeat batsmen with a deceptive change of pace; the necessity to stick to an accurate line and length; the knack of delivering spot on yorkers under pressure —Madhwal brought all of these skills to his Mumbai Indians team with aplomb. His transition was totally seamless — no pun intended!
Frequently, people spend a lot of time in a particular field. They are unable to expand their career horizons, primarily due to a fixed mindset that they belong only to one specific domain, and that they will not find a place elsewhere. This can restrict career options and growth. However, if one examines things at a deeper level, one finds that several fields call for the same set of core skills. The language, grammar and intricacies may differ, and yet, with the determined person that engagement is only a matter of time. For instance, the hospitality, airline, and banking industries, may have more in common than they think, especially when it comes to customer service. All they require are confident candidates who are assured in their ability to translate theirr skills. Then, as Madhwal’s first name implies, the sky is the limit.
Lesson 5 from MS Dhoni — Leading while staying behind
Finally, no talk of the IPL, can ever be complete without a mention of MS Dhoni, the man whose name has become synonymous with the tournament itself. Dhoni led from the front for many years. His finishing prowess was the stuff of legends. However, with age and maturity, he has redefined his role in letting others around him take the centre stage and shine. He has backed and empowered them to take their own decisions in moments of crunch. His calm demeanour at all moments rubs off on his team mates, who are able to handle pressure better. Standing behind the stumps, in his wicket-keeping position, he is truly the ‘the wind beneath the wings’ for Chennai Super Kings (CSK). And he is perfectly poised to continue in the same vein for some more time.
Dhoni’s case presents an example to leaders who wonder about their changing role, as the clock begins to tick over. Clearly, what was once their special talent may be declining, but that does not mean they still can’t inspire. Letting others in on the act, not just boosts the confidence of the team, but also increases the probability of winning — not just on the pitch but in the boardroom as well. The concentration then shifts to creating a conducive environment in the team, and focusing on processes that ensure long-term success, even if they may sometimes fail. The leader, just like Dhoni from his vantage position, also becomes a closer observer of his team and the surroundings. His experience becomes key in terms of spotting major patterns. Once a King, he now assumes the role of a sage, though that’s not too bad considering it helps his team experience highs.
To conclude, these are only some analogies but the idea is to see parallels, on the field, to situations at the workplace. In doing so, one just may discover the secret code to becoming an ‘impact player’ on the employee roster.