Leadership 101: Management lessons from the Kohli vs Kumble saga that threatens to divide Indian cricket

Kohli, Kumble, Karthik Chandramouli, Image Source: http://www.oneindia.com/sports/cricket/virat-kohli-led-team-india-leaves-west-indies-tour-2145915.html

The Virat Kohli vs Anil Kumble standoff in my view was inevitable once rumors surfaced before India left for the Champions Trophy. It was claimed in certain sections of the Indian Media, that the duo were at loggerheads.

It was absolutely right on the part of Kumble to pen down a letter of appreciation to the management, the CAC and to the die hard fans of the team despite the sticky situation.

Since Kohli has chosen to talk only about his immense respect for Anil Kumble — The Cricketer, I am certain that he won the battle, but lost the war. There is no version where Kohli could have come up trumps in his alleged battle with Kumble. Why?

For starters, Indian fans are highly emotional and the spitting image of Kumble bowling for the team vs West Indies despite a broken jaw is in everyone’s mind. Not to forget, his 10 wicket haul, against ( well you know it) Pakistan will also bring back tears to the eyes of supporters. Considering it was against, Pakistan, do I need to elaborate further?

But, perhaps, the lasting memory of Kumble will undoubtedly be the press conference in Australia, during the series remembered for the ‘Monkey Gate’ episode. Kumble came out all guns blazing like a lead character in a Tarantino movie and said, “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that’s all I can say. I’ve played my cricket very sincerely and honestly, that’s the approach my team takes, and we expect that from Australia as well. Sometimes it happens that in the heat of the moment you take those chances and then probably don’t say anything on that. It’s a part of the game.”

Now, here is an absolute legend, who led India with pride and distinction and emerged out of that series against Australia with his integrity intact. This is why I am certain that Kohli may have won the battle, but lost the war.

The management lessons from this battle are plenty. Here a few crucial ones:

  1. What happens inside the dressing room, stays in the dressing room

To quote the legendary, Don Vito Corleone from the Godfather trilogy:

The Godfather, Kohli, BCCI, Cricket, Karthik Chandramouli, Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/godfather-quotes/

The Indian team and the media are like the Batman and the Joker. Following is an epic scene from the Dark Knight:

The Dark Knight, BCCI, Kohli, Cricket, Karthik Chandramouli
Now, the Indian team always faces a news leak or a controversy before the start of any major tournament. Only if it does not happen, fans begin to wonder whats wrong with their favorite team. For all the flak Kohli has received, I think he has continued on the tradition of M.S.Dhoni when Kohli said: “Like I said, for me what’s most important is to maintain the sanctity of the change room and what happens in the change room is something that’s very sacred and private to all of us, and something that I would not express in details in a public scenario. As I said, his point of view is out there and we respect that decision.”

You got to applaud that despite the media vultures circling Kohli for his version of the story, the above response was as dignified as it can get.

Management Lesson: It is a absolutely necessary to maintain the sanctity of the organization and not reveal what happens in a board room to anyone else within the organization (or to the media) who do not need that information.

2) Never take on a situation wherein ,You win the battle, but lose the war

As explained above, it is imperative that one does not commit this blunder. Suppose you want to make a point against your fellow colleagues in a meeting which can be avoided, then don’t do it. Although you have made your point ( even if it is right), criticizing them will ensure that you have successfully isolated yourself from their future support. Your colleagues will turn out to be your well wishers. Never, lose their trust and support.

3) Be Accountable and Transparent

However, when I say, discretion is advised, I did not say no to accountability and transparency. The BCCI is right up there alongide FIFA & UEFA as one of the strongest sporting bodies. It is akin to FIFA, even for all the wrong reasons. Corruption, involvement of too many politicians. You get the picture, right?

I dread the day where the BCCI could emerge to become the next ‘Satyam’.There is no accountability & transparency whatsoever within the sporting body. Even after the intervention of the Supreme Court, the BCCI is far from clean. Numerous controversies are brushed under the mat like it’s no ones business to handle. The IPL has become a comedy circus with its ill-fated management despite the millions the league brings in.

Now back to the saga, Lets reason why the Kohli vs Kumble spat happened in the first place, considering a few traits:

Passion — Check
Fire to win — Check
Never back down — Check
These three traits are embodied by both Kumble and Kohli. Both cannot stand losing ( To quote Brad Pitt in Moneyball, I hate losing more than I love winning), they will almost never flinch from their stand and both are aggressive characters when it comes to cricket. Kumble? Aggressive, you may ask. Yes, just ask any of those fielders who dropped a sitter or let a boundary slip through their hands — they will not dare to look Kumble in the eye as he will be raging similar to The Hulk.

The face off was inevitable because, as the Dark Knight showed us, This is what happens when an unstoppable force, meets an immovable object.

Before ending, I would like to apply for the post of “Sources” to the Indian media. I can create sensational tidbits from the comfort of my home. The source is anyway not revealed by the media.

Responsible journalism, seems to be far away than thought of, right.