Cricket is arguably India’s most popular sport and it’s as much a game of bat and ball as it is of strategies and planning. Cricket, like most, sports demands not just skills in the sporting department but also requires exceptional management skills. And these management skills are not just restricted to the backroom or the dressing room, cricket needs dynamic and direct leadership and management, right on the field. Let’s take an example of the “Miracle of Eden” and try to get a few management lessons from the match. From the Australian point of view.
Background: This was the summer of 2001, the Australians riding high on an innings victory in Bombay had come to Calcutta to play the second test, in the March heat. This Australian team – one of the greatest of all time – was at the peak of their powers and were on a eighteen match unbeaten run, having won their last sixteen tests.
1. Overconfidence: The Australian team was filled with once in a lifetime players – McGrath, Warne, Gilchirst, Ponting, Hayden and the Waugh twins. They had just demolished India and were in top form. They continued that run in Calcutta as well and destroyed India in the first innings. One can see why they could become a little complacent and that’s exactly what happened. Their overconfidence led them to enforce the follow on as they thought that the opposition would wilt quickly.
2. Communication: But there was one problem, one of the greatest captains of all time, failed to listen to his bowlers. The Australians were playing only four frontline bowlers – three of whom were fast bowlers. Of the three seamers, one had spent more than three hours batting in the heat and then they spent the second day bowling in the humid Calcutta heat. Steve Waugh failed to listen to and understand the situation of his bowlers.
3. Situation Analysis: Fast bowling is a tough job, bowling fast in hot and humid conditions is tougher and especially so when you are not native to the conditions and the country. The Australians didn’t realise that their bowlers could break down in the heat and the unfriendly conditions. Which is exactly what happened. Besides, their overconfidence meant they didn’t plan for batting last on an Eden pitch that is infamous for deteriorating as a test match progresses.
4. Contingency Plan: The Australians did no’t have any. All the Indians had to do was show some grit and stick it for some considerable period and that’s what Dravid and Laxman did. The Australian fast bowlers were now tired, hot and physically struggling – a fact that would cost them the series in the next match starting three days after this with almost no recovery time! They had one recognised spinner and Warne might be an all time great but he had a woeful record against India and that is exactly what happened in this match; he was completely ineffective. And worst of all, the Australians did not plan to bat again at all. There was no Plan B and were sitting ducks on a cracked fifth day pitch. India took less than a day to bowl them out.
This match was lost less for the ‘sports’ aspect of cricket and almost entirely for terrible management and strategies.