Shall India Look Beyond Captain Kohli?
Virat's captaincy has always been under scrutiny as he is not afraid to take any out-of-the-box decisions which often went wrong. So, the best player in the team may not necessarily be the best captain. Let us understand the trait that are required to lead a side.
Imran Khan was regarded as a top-notch captain as he led his side to World Cup victory. It is good that he did not suffer from insecurity, or else the cricketing world would have missed players like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Imran always put Pakistan first and was very secure himself, so he didn’t mind picking young players who, in a few years, would actually become better than him, for his skills would decline with age.
He also believed in leading from the front and so, when his fast-bowling skills had significantly declined during the World Cup campaign of 1992, he moved up to number three in the batting order. The captain was making a statement.
Imran was also aware, as all good captains should, that if his younger players grew to become outstanding players, he would win more matches as captain because, the wins and losses go against a captain's name. And so he ensured that Waqar Younis was not allowed to become anything other than a genuine fast bowler and he held Wasim Akram's hand till Akram became the champion cricketer that he is now recognised as.
The story goes that as a young player extraordinarily gifted, Akram could bowl every ball in the game but hadn’t yet learned the art of thinking a batsman out, didn’t therefore know which ball to bowl when and to whom. Imran, as a captain was now well past his best as a bowler but still knew what to bowl to get a batsman out. And so ball by ball, Imran would guide Akram and as he himself said, a day came when he was at mid-off and the game seemed to have stopped.
He looked at his bowler, who was at the top of his run-up and said, 'What happened?' 'Skipper, you haven’t told me which ball to ball' was apparently Akram's response.
Imran could do this because he was a secure leader. He had the experience, but no longer the expertise needed. Akram had all the skills but didn't yet posses the experience. The combination though, using the best both had to offer was brilliant.
What starts early in life with the best student in class being made the class monitor continues till most later with the star batsman becoming captain. The law of natural progression is followed the world over, in spite of it being proved wrong over and again. Star performers are supremely individualists, totally focused on themselves and their craft. In a sense, their obsession with themselves is what defines their genius.
A leader on the other hand, needs to think beyond himself and ahead of everyone else. He needs to relate to people whose talent does not match his own and needs to spend time with players who are not performing as well as him.
While doing so, a leader must also answer a simple question: Do I spend more time with people who are in form and delivering as they are meant to, or do I spend more time with underperformers who need some hand-holding?
One outstanding talent don't always make the best leaders because they tend to weigh everyone in the same scales they weigh themselves in and so, sometimes are unable to understand the limited capability, even the insecurity, of another player.
Being a leader therefore, is critical, because you still need that person on the team and also get the best out of them. Michael Holding said something similar about his captain Clive Lloyd. There was a feeling that you didn't really need to do much with the great West Indies side since everyone knew their role and they were the most awesome bunch of players to take the field. But as Holding said, 'Lloydy took the trouble to understand that we were all different and because he respected us, we respected him.’
The other reason the best performer need not make the best leader, is that leadership requires a whole new set of skills. He should be able to judge things from a distance. Often, there aren’t people who will tell the leader that he is wrong. It is lonely at the top.
Understanding that the qualities that brought you so far are not the ones that will necessarily take you forward is an adjustment that many fail to make. So, teams might be better looking at those who may appear to be less-gifted individuals, if they posses the ability to bring the best out of their team.