The audience was held spellbound and mind you, they weren’t exactly the wet-behind-the-ear variety. It comprised the likes of GR Viswanath, Roger Binny, Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane and Mithali Raj, all of whom have delivered on the big stage.
The event also had P Madhavan, executive vice-president, sales and marketing, TVS Tyres, who chipped in with notes from the boardroom.
Kumble, the former India coach and current head of cricket operations and head coach of Kings XI Punjab stressed on the need to focus on oneself instead of the end result.
“Selectors are there to actually drop you not select you, because you pick yourself,” Kumble said. “In the end, it’s only your performances that count. So, the focus has to be on wanting to do better.”
The spin wizard also warned against distractions. “Each era has its own share of distractions. When we were playing, I had everyone tell me what I should be bowling and how I should be bowling and when I should be bowling. Also, whether India should bat or bowl first or which bowler should bowl and at what time? I think those comments were always there. But today, it’s more visible because of social media. You just have to make sure that you stay away from all that and focus on what you need to do on that particular day and what your goals needs to be.”
In an era when the relationship between the media and athletes is volatile, Raman underlined the need for maturity and ‘convenient’ memory.
“People have to have the maturity to think that if somebody is writing about you he or she is doing the job. Your job is to try and be as better as you can the next time around. And that’s what sport is all about. It is important not to get absolutely overjoyed about what happened, either good or bad. It is a case of a very convenient memory,” explained the 54-year-old, who launched his book, The Winning Sixer-Leadership Lessons To Master, on the day.
Raman, who highlighted the need to separate judgement from assessment among players and leaders, spoke on effective communication, a prerequisite especially in team sport. “You learn to become a leader as you do more of it. In sport, the other advantage of being a captain is you make mistakes and learn from them because experience is a very, very tough teacher. It punishes you first and then teaches you a lesson.”
Drawing from his own experience as a successful captain of the Indian team, Kumble elaborated on a core group of leaders and the traits of a leader. Few are more qualified than Kumble in present-day Indian cricket to talk on the subject especially with the way he handled the infamous Monkeygate scandal during a heated standoff in the second Test of India’s 2007-08 tour of Australia.
“You need a core group of players to support (the captain). That way I was lucky. I had Sachin Tendulkar), Sourav (Ganguly) and (VVS) Laxman. Things fall into place if you have a good core group around you. You have to distance yourself from the emotions of what is happening in a situation like that (monkeygate). Once you distance yourself from the issue then you need to deal with the issue rather than the personality. Invariably when conflicts happen, you try and worry too much about the personality and not think about the real issue. Once we look at the real issue in a holistic way, things fall into place. I think that is an important aspect when we face those issues.”
ON FOUR DAY CRICKET
With the debate going around on four-day versus five-day. I think the current generation certainly wants five-day cricket. That’s very obvious.
LEADERSHIP IN INDIAN CRICKET
I think you just learn on the job. I don’t think there’s any one such school where you will learn about leadership and become a captain in India. You just throw them in the deep end and then they figure it out. You learn from your experiences of being a player, dealing with and managing situations. Also, you learn from knowing your teammates. I don’t think there’s any rule for a perfect leader. It’s all about learning from the situation and then knowing what needs to be done at that moment. You need to have the ability to step out from your personal goals and look at the team in a larger context. If one can do that, then it’s a lot easier.
ON DEALING WITH INJURIES
It’s never easy because when I went through a shoulder injury I was out of the team for almost two years. It took me almost three and a half months to lift my hand. During that period, I asked myself, will I ever be able to bowl? Somebody else has come in and doing well so, will I be able to come back and take my place? I think those times it’s important to have a good support system. I had family and friends who are very supportive. And, there was the example of Javagal Srinath, who also had a shoulder surgery and came back to play international cricket. So, I knew if I put in the hard yards, the comeback would eventually happen. The one thing that happens when you’re injured and in rehabilitation is that you want to come back quickly. That’s something I didn’t do. I constantly fought against it. I wanted to make sure that when I come back I’m ready. I didn’t want to go in there early and make a mess. It’s important to just make sure that you are eventually 100% fit before you walk into the game.