With results going their way on the field, the Indian team has the luxury of working towards broader goals, setting in place systems that will help them in their stated ambition of becoming the best team in the world.
While the nuts and bolts of the team’s day-to-day functioning is left to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the think-tank of Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton focus on setting up an environment in which the players are encouraged to grow and learn.
Unlike coaches of the past, the two South Africans believe in going about their business behind closed doors, in quiet fashion. Even the latest document they have put together — a series of four pieces in a folder for each player, with customized letterheads on which to record their feedback — was only circulated internally. The Hindustan Times accessed these documents, getting a first peek into how things work within the Indian team.
Perhaps the most intellectual section of the various aspects addressed, this section looks back into history and tries to draw inferences from the manner in which India conducted itself as a nation. Using the metaphor of sport as war, the piece explores strategies, dealing with victory and defeat and the need for unity. Excerpts from ‘India at war: The battlefields v the cricket fields’
Unlike most major civilisations, India has never pursued a war outside of the greater Asian subcontinent. Unfamiliar with doing battle outside the borders of their mother country, as is required in international cricket, India during the years ’83-’03 won 20% of games played outside of their borders, compared to a win ration of 52% at home. In Test cricket, the ultimate battle played out on the cricket fields, India have won only 10% of matches away compared to 57% within their borders.
India has never been an aggressor at war, they have never been first to strike... they have never taken the battle to the opposition. In the 1971 war with Pakistan, it took the Pakistan Air Force to strike a number of airfields in North India before India was officially at war with the enemy.
In comparison and historically, Indian cricket teams are not known to attack first, to dominate from the start of a cricket series. Over the period 1983-2003, India went 1-0 up in only 20% of the series they played, compared to going 1-0 down in 80%.
History will continue to be repeated if we fall foul of complacency, handing back the initiative, compared to making wining a habit, where complacency is relegated to the history books. We are sitting at the knife-edge now, will we remain relentlessly on our path to becoming India’s best and the world’s best by continuing to drive the advantage and domination home, with all opposition
Given the large role fitness plays in a cricketer’s life, surprisingly little has been written taking into account the idiosyncrasies of a travelling band like the Indian team. For months on end, the team is away from home and the comfort of an environment where they have complete control over how their food is prepared. Some of the suggestions offered to the players in the document are quite basic, but already there’s a visible change, with many losing significant weight in quick time and the unit as a whole looking trim and fit. Excerpts from ‘Ideas for healthy eating’:
As a professional cricketer, your diet, training routine and lifestyle will be different to your friends who are not professional cricketers – ask them to respect this.
Also hotels, restaurants, caterers and hosts cook food for the man-in-the-streets’ taste buds. You are not the average man, so choose you food cleverly.
(And advice) Acid in the body causes the body to turn calories into fat, lowers the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working cells, and can also cause daytime fatigue, irritability, low brain functioning, over sexuality, anxiety, diarrhea, joint pain and difficulty sleeping at night.
When players make it to the national team, it’s a given that they have high levels of talent and skill. What ends up making a difference is the degree to which each individual is able to maximise his potential.
In the Indian team, with some of the greatest players ever to play the game still in the mix, this is a subject that gets discussed informally, where youngsters pick the brains of their heroes.
The latest document, which cites Sachin Tendulkar as one of the “greatest living examples of Personal Mastery” codifies some of this. Excerpts from ‘Personal Mastery: Raising the bar — taking our games & lives to even greater heights’.
Personal Mastery is not a destination, not something one can achieve, but a progressive path along which we travel through life.
In essence, Personal Mastery is a shift in attitude – from the importance of results and money to including the importance of the kind of person one is being… It is a shift from blaming others to taking responsibility, from being reactive to being proactive, from knee-jerk rejection of criticism to accepting that it's one of the few things that help us grow. It is realising that what other people think or say about you is none of your business.
It is about developing more than muscle and sporting intelligence, but also about developing social, emotional and spiritual intelligence. It is a shift from an attitude of expecting things to come to you to an attitude of gratitude for what does come.
Personal Mastery requires an awareness of how you conduct yourself in relation to basic human principles such as integrity, honesty, humility, respect and doing what is best for all. It means having an awareness of and deliberately living personal values as one goes about one’s business. It’s about knowing how you want to one day be remembered as a person – and then living that way today.
When young, successful celebrities travel the world, there’s bound to be interest from the opposite sex. The subject is little talked about and the approach the article takes makes it perfect for young sportsmen.
It begins with a quote from Tim Noakes, a professor and sports scientist at the University of Cape Town, who said
cheekily that sex was not a problem, but being up till 2am, probably having a few drinks at a bar while trying to pick someone up, on the eve of a game, almost always was. Excerpts from ‘Does sex increase performance?’ (The first line incidentally, is “Yes it does, so go ahead and indulge”)
From a physiological (body) perspective, having sex increases testosterone levels, which causes an increase in strength, energy, aggression and competitiveness.
Conversely, not having sex for a period of a few months causes a significant drop in testosterone levels in both males and females, with the corresponding passiveness and decrease in aggression.
Some psychologists suggest that having sex causes an increase in anger, aggression and competitiveness, which for most contact sports is a positive effect.
The reason that I talk religion here is not so I can cover in one article the three most covered topic at most dinner parties — sport, sex and religion, but to point out that enforced celibacy may not be the best solution for someone wanting to avoid having sex before competition.
At least not for periods too much longer than you are normally used to going without it.
You may experience that your mind spends more time focussing on the fire in your groin than on good sport practice, preparation and sleep.