Engagement and Unity through Cricket

Wednesday 30-March’11 was not a usual day both in India and Pakistan; it was a day when both these countries “battled” in semi-final cricket match of ICC world Cup at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali-a city in Northwestern Indian state of Punjab. ICC is an apex body and can be compared to FIFA; ICC organizes Cricket World Cup once in four years. The winner of this match would get in final match against Sri Lanka, an island country on southern eastern tip of Indian peninsula.

India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have strained relations, for last 6 decades, in Political, Military, and Religious spheres which also affect sports, even to a game of Cricket which is known as Gentlemen’s Game. This situation draws lots of attention towards this sporting event, from all the strata of society alike, which reaches to the extent of anxiety. A cricket match between these two countries is not left merely as a sport, but becomes a crusade of national pride and Cricket supremacy! Plus both the teams have pressure of winning against their archrival, as it is considered more important, by those for whom Cricket is a religion and exist in both the countries, than winning World Cup itself.

To draw a parallel imagine Israel and Palestine, or North Korea-South Korea, or even more accurately America and Taliban as contestants in any sport. Probably the relationship between India and Pakistan is more complex than the above examples put together.

If this was not enough, this match was made super high profile by Dr. Manmohan Singh’s, Indian Prime Minister and Architect of India’s economic liberalization of 1991, invitation to Mr. Yousaf Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Bollywood Superstars (Indian Film industry), and Indian Inc. top honchos were also present to witness this historic match and cheer Team India. Reportedly Hollywood star Josh Hartnet also enjoyed this match while shooting for a crossover film in Central India.

Typically during such matches, albeit this match was unprecedented, the national productivity levels, level of attentiveness, and presence in offices dips significantly.

To hedge this many diligent and empathetic companies in India either declared a half day leave, which would be compensated some day later, or altered their working hours from standard 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM to 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or even earlier and for those who had to be in office inevitably, TV sets or match screening through projectors was arranged. Prime minister of Pakistan Mr. Gilani, declared a half day leave for Government Employees of Pakistan.

This measure offered multiple benefits, first it ensured that there was no substantial productivity loss or disturbance in essential services, like call centers, medical services etc.  Second employees felt accommodated as they got chance to watch this high voltage match with their friends and families instead of being in office unnecessarily. Third it instilled a confidence of a possibility to work out a win-win situation between workforce and management.  Arguably this was the one of the biggest employee engagement initiative, which showed instant results as employees returned charged and excited next day, this scene however was in India as India had won against Pakistan.

There are other perspectives to look at this match; one is a social perspective which shows how unifying a sport could be, even for an immensely diverse India, this was evident on roads in India after victory where poor and BMW-owners celebrated India’s success till late night. The other perspective is diplomatic where 2 prime ministers sat next to each other and assured each other of smoother and warmer relations ahead. Also the way both teams played showed the world that it is not impossible to play against archrival with discipline, civility, and sportsmanship. From a Management and Leadership perspective the resurrection of Indian Cricket team, Indian Cricket team Captain ‘cool’ Mahendrasingh Dhoni’s Leadership, and Mentorship of Former South African Cricketer Gary Kirstein, each of them are worthy of becoming a case study in itself.

About the Author

Roshan Rawal is mid-level HR professional and is working in a volatile and competitive Indian outsourcing/off shoring industry. He has contributed extensively in areas Talent Acquisition, Building new teams and practices, Institutionalize and optimize HR processes, Training and Development, compliance to ISO and CMM, benchmarking etc. Lately he has been driving Employee Engagement activities. He is also in support of idea of Open Training.


3 thoughts on “Engagement and Unity through Cricket

  1. Starting from the last, it is a little painful, to hear that MS Dhoni,has ‘resurrected’ Indian cricket. MSD is leading a team built by greats like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid & Anil Kumble, though the last named lead India for a very short while. The test for Mr.Cool will come when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Lakshman & Zaheer Khan retire, which is not too far away, or when India is expected to win on bouncy wickets outside India. That will be a test of leadership and personality.

    If we think, like the author suggests, that the match at Mohali was a kind of ice breaker,then it did just that, but to suggest that the match fostered unity, makes little sense. Soon after his defeated team reached Pakistan, Shahid Afridi, the captain, said that Indians in general did not have large or clean hearts like Pakistani’s.Afridi later said he was misquoted.

    The cricket match was just a game and the better team won.India and Pakistan have traversed very different paths over the last six decades and it is going to take a lot more than Bollywood and cricket, or the odd train that travels between the countries, to bring understanding and peace. The match of course provided an opportunity for the Pakistan PM to travel to India.!

    Let us also not forget that India houses the poorest of the poor in the world and to suggest that owners of BMW’s and the poor forgot their economic standing, for that brief moment, is in poor taste. What of those, in rural India, who do not have power or a TV set to have watched the game on ‘giant screens’.

    I like cricket and have played a lot of it, in my time, but having said that, Iwould not like to see everything that happens around cricket be turned into a ‘case study’ and then transported to B-Schools!

    • I think what the author was saying was that the way India, in general, handled the game was beneficial to the country, to businesses, and to the productivity of the workplace. That something as simple as an approach to a game of Cricket can have a beneficial impact.

      I do not think he was suggesting that it completely changed a nation or that it produce a radically different relationship between India and Pakistan.

  2. Captain,

    I respect your feelings, this article was not about Cricket, or Indo Pak relationship, but was on productivity and a large scale measures taken by Indian companies, and probably by pakistani counterparts in event of this match.

    Expecting any concrete or long term consequences in areas of politics or military affairs through such sporting event is futile, but cannot be ruled out completely. Arguably Bollywood, Sufi music, Cricket etc soft measures may yield encouraging results in bringing these two countries closer-it already is doing.

    If we were to discuss some people on holy lads of Engagement Blog they should be Gary Kirsten and Paddy Uptone and not Manmohan Singh or Gilani.

    Thanks for feedback.


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