Leadership lessons from Cricket Captains, by Kazim Abidi

Kazim Abidi is an entrepreneur, sportsman and a good friend who has just started contributing to this blog.

When we talk of cricket we talk of those big strides a fast bowler takes, the graceful stroke play of a batsman, the horizontal dive of a fielder, wizardry of a spinner and numerous other things that take place on the field. To a cricket lover it is poetry-in-motion. Close matches bring about the excitement, which is so unique because it’s a game with lots of gaps that allows you to think, ponder, discuss strategies, make changes etc. In this excitement we often forget the role a captain plays.

I think about my team HKU where I play my Saturday league cricket. It’s quite a mixture of English, Australian, Pakistani and Indian players. We didn’t do well for two seasons until we got Phil Glenwright, a player who has passed his prime, as our captain. The internal politics disappeared, the level of commitment from each individual soared. The team became a cohesive unit where an average player performed at parity with the stars. The captain’s confidence in each one of us and his appreciation for trivial things meant the world to us. We finished second in the league last year and are playing in the finals for the title this year.

I believe there is a spirit that drives humans to the height of their physical abilities. For some, it’s a creative spirit, which is more physical, for others, the spirit is mental. Watching Rajasthan Royals (RR) in recent IPL matches confirmed this notion. RR is a side that has no stars. The biggest names in the team are Greame Smith and probably Yusuf Pathan who is still struggling to make to the Indian playing eleven. This is also the cheapest team in the franchise where some players are bought at a meager $24,000 against the top auction price of $1.5 million. So how does this team perform so well? It is Shane Warne’s captaincy that does it for the RRs. The bowling changes, the element of surprise he brings in, the field placing along with his own superb bowling might be a part of the cricket that he played for Australia. But it is his unique leadership qualities – his faith in each individual and his ways to handle them – that bind the team so well. He inspires and motivates them so much that each individual is determined to give more than 100%. His immense confidence in Kamran Khan, eighteen year old kid from the impoverished backwaters of UP, who hasn’t played even first class cricket was worth noticing in a recent match. The pat on the back and the hug after he said, “I am sure you can do it” must have fired the lightly built Khan to do the job. This confidence along with the continuous encouragement coming from the great Warne must mean a lot to the otherwise unknown players of RR. So much so that they want to lay their lives for him. This is a strength that is a potential match winner.

6 thoughts on “Leadership lessons from Cricket Captains, by Kazim Abidi

  1. Hi Kazim. Loved reading your article. Actually, I’ll love reading anything you write as long as it has the backdrop of cricket!!! Where exactly is your team HKU geographically located? It’s great to know that Shane Warne’s leadership talents are recognised there. Back here in Australia he hasn’t succeeded in living down his “texting” prowess fame! Just after your article in the automatically generated related posts, I thought the article “The paradox between Indian and Aussie cricket” a good read too – couldn’t agree more with the Australian characteristic of commitment. The ethos that it’s not who you are but what you are capable of is so true here. Cheers Vijay


    • Hi Vijay, nice to know you liked my article. I live in Hong Kong where I played 6 years of league cricket for Hong Kong University. Warnie is not a very disciplined guy which cost him Aussie Captaincy. But its his brilliance I am talking about. He was a genius as a bowler. No doubts about that. He used to out think the batsman. I still remember the ashes of 2005. After Australia followed on..England needed some 130 odd runs to win. Facing Warne I still remember noticing a streak of sweat trickling down Andrew Strauss’ helmet. Warne carried this brilliance to IPL and as a captain so far its working well. Cheers Kazim


    • Kazim,Vijay,
      Finally I read something that endorses what I have always believed in, and advocated.Throughout my career as a sales executive, and as a sales manager,I have always looked to Cricket for idea and inspiration.There is a distinct relation between the two,ie Cricket and our job of direct sales.
      Observing captains like Warne,Brearly,Dhoni and Waugh has given inputs and ideas of getting out of tight spots
      and new ways of handling people;more than any management books. At least for me its worked very well.
      Books like “Zen of cricket” and “Out of my comfort zone” are my favourites.


      • Waseem,
        Good to read your comments. You are absolutely right. I too have learned a lot both from watching and playing cricket. I love team sports, particularly cricket, because its a combination of many different energies and a good captain is one who recognizes them and uses his resources well. Good you mentioned Mike Brearly who was such a great captain.


      • hi waseem, thrilled to see that you too are following my blog! and thanks for the comments.
        now i know one more secret of your success as one of the best sales leaders we have in the region!
        perhaps you could write on this blog and share some more leadership tips with our readers.
        cheers… mush
        ps. thomas continues to mention you and your team ever since we got back from dubai!


  2. Hello Dude-
    Read your nicely crafted article. Although we both agree on most things about WARNE’S leadership skills, but how long do you think he can take the team this season without the TOP STARS? And also whatever one he has – not performing- is a big question mark ???


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