When I was coming to the end of my internship in my first job in advertising, I had to, along with the other young executives, make a campaign presentation to senior management. And as they dissected our efforts, seemingly in search of perfection, I wondered, never having seen them at it, how they would stack up themselves. As it turned out, that evening a middle manager confronted one of the top bosses with the very same point. “Why didn’t you make a presentation to show these young fellows how it is done? Instead of telling them, you could have shown them?” The boss bristled a bit. “I don’t have to prove myself to these kids” he said. “Indeed, you do” the sharp middle manager retorted, the glass in hand empowering him substantially. The argument degenerated after that but the thought has remained with me.
The years have passed and I am among the older people in television now with some extremely bright young anchors coming along, confident of themselves and who do not think seniority should automatically command respect. I cannot throw my CV at them, cannot demand the best programmes because I’ve been there and done a bit. I often think about it when I am hosting a live telecast in hot and noisy environments. If I wish that a 25-year-old anchor look up to me then I must perform in the most difficult conditions of all. The truth (and I haven’t told them this yet!) is that I watch a lot of their work with admiration and often wonder if I can pull off what they do. Their skill keeps our generation on its toes and that is how it should be.
It leads me to a delicious thought. Should the incumbent in the national team hold on to his position by right or should he take on the youngster and prove he is still far better? Inevitably, in a contest like this, the senior player will have everything to lose and the youngster everything to gain, including the support the underdog always gets in a fight! But part of the role of being the star is to manage expectations by delivering on them, by not losing even when there is so much to lose. The thought first appeared when I saw India’s national T20 team look a bit burdened on the field in what is essentially a sport demanding fearlessness. As reputations grow, they sometimes breed conservatism because people don’t want to risk losing what they have earned. In some professions that is fine, not quite so in, say, T20 cricket where, for 240 balls, you live on the edge.
And I wondered if it wouldn’t be a bad idea for a team of stars to take on a team of youngsters in a best of three contest; to toughen themselves by playing people who have nothing to lose. When they know the external environment is going to be turbulent, corporations often create turbulence within to prepare themselves for change. And as a huge season of T20 cricket looms, it might help the big stars to put their reputations on the line. And so this is the line up, I would like to see:
Current India XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma, taking on this band of T20 hopefuls. Manan Vohra, Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Mandeep Singh, Sanju Samson, Gurkeerat Mann, Hardik Pandya, Jagadeesh Suchith, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Sharma and Yuzvendra Chahal.
You never know what games like these can throw up because, even if I labour the point, an opponent who has nothing to lose is sometimes a good one to have if you want to be recognised as a leader. Indeed, there is another group of players who, because they have been overlooked, are in a similar nothing-to-lose situation and they could mount a serious battle too. Here is a group I would love to see take on the national team because they probably think they should still be there. Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ashish Nehra.
You could replace a player here and there but the idea of generating such contests is powerful because it challenges the comfort zone which is the greatest enemy of progress. You could argue that the Challenger Tournament, which I disliked intensely, was a bit like this. Those teams had no mission or objective to bind them and so players could be tempted to play for themselves. Here there is a common chord running through the teams.
I know it won’t happen but I think it could do a lot of good.
How about a T20 Challenger between these teams?
Current India Team: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma
Youngsters: Manan Vohra, Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Mandeep Singh, Sanju Samson, Gurkeerat Mann, Hardik Pandya, Jagadeesh Suchith, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Sharma and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Veterans: Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ashish Nehra.