(When World Cup winning former Pakistan captain Imran Khan visited the island 16 years ago to deliver a speech at the CIMA Global Leaders Summit at BMICH, The Island’s respected cricket columnist Rohan Wijeyaratna had been invited for the forum. Rohan in successive weeks, through his column, told Imran’s message to our readers. We reproduce his second installment today. This first appeared on the 18th of June 2005. The first installment was published yesterday.)
Yesterday we closed at the point where Imran refused General Musharaff’s invitation to the premiership and paid the price. However, he believed he was now closer to his objective than ever. He said his refusal was based on a matter of principle and gave him credibility. Credibility was the key to leadership. If you wished people to follow you, it was important that you have credibility and if that was lost, one could never aspire to leadership. “The key to leadership” said Imran, “is the ability to command people’s respect. People will never respect you if you are not credible.” Words that must ring true in the ears of every leader in this country, be it in politics, commerce, industry, education or indeed sports itself, including those who have or intend to, exchange their flannels for a sarong and a seat in parliament.
The fear of failure
If lack of vision was a major impediment towards not achieving one’s ambition, then the fear of failure was the next. “People were petrified of failure,” Imran stated. Such men would not try anything due to fear of criticism that followed failure. They worried too much of what others would say if they failed. This was the biggest trap, the biggest prison one could create for oneself. All his life Imran had people laugh at him, but his advice was never to be put off by that.
He opined that public sentiment was extremely fickle. You go out to bat one day and everyone cheers. If you get out first ball, everyone jeers. Observing that Pakistan losing to India was not an option, he recalled his first tour to India where Pakistan lost despite a far stronger team than the Indians. Returning home was a calculated risk, involving judicious timing. So when the plane landed in the wee hours of the morning, the over-zealous customs officers stripped them of everything and ensured that they did not leave the airport until daybreak and in full public view. They stayed indoors thereafter for a week. Yet six to seven years later when they arrived after beating India, there were 150,000 at the airport and the roads were lined up with people on either side several rows deep for 5 miles! With such exposure to public fickleness it was easy to view failures in perspective and not be scared of what others might have to say.
Imran reckoned that the worry of failure also prevented some from taking calculated risks in life. And without taking a risk you can only settle for mediocrity, never achieving any heights. “Failure” he said was “the greatest teacher ever. It teaches you more than when winning.” Victory makes you forget the mistakes but defeat ensures that mistakes stare you in the face and that you come to terms with them. Crisis is sometimes the best teacher, but one needs to be able to analyze a crisis and not allow it to destroy one’s self belief. Therefore, by putting things into perspective and analyzing rationally, it was possible to come back stronger for it. Taking the example of Zaheer Abbas, Imran said there was none so gifted as he, yet the fear of failure often petrified the man and he never reached his fullest potential. When one feared failure one not only forgot how to win but lost the killer instinct as well. Giving another example, Imran recalled playing against Australia minus all their stars who had defected to the Packer camp. It was literally an Aussie ‘B’ team and Pakistan being vastly superior; there was no comparison. Predictably Pakistan won the first Test but just before the second and final Test, their captain said that under no circumstance should they lose the match. The whole team played so negatively in order not to lose, they ended up losing the match!
Fear of failure made one defensive. Then it was easy to miss opportunities. Belief in success makes one develop the killer instinct so that when opportunities come they are grabbed, as you have been looking for them. Imran attributed his success as captain largely to self belief. “I was successful as captain even with a weak team because when I stepped on to a cricket field I never thought anyone could defeat me.”
Such was his attitude even when playing the indomitable West Indies at their peak. Then it was not a question of winning but losing with dignity! Yet, he famously called for and got neutral umpires to stand, saying that when Pakistan won it would not be attributed to their own umpires! Also, it helped remove the ‘crutch’ his players were used to with ‘home’ umpires, as it effectively told them ‘you are on your own’ and that they were good enough to win. Imran recognized that if one half of every good player was technique and talent, the other half was all temperament and mind. Pakistan registered a shock win but eventually the series was drawn. He never mentioned of course his immense all-round contribution towards that win!
Those who looked to succeed would be positive and made the ‘lesser known’ and the ‘not so good’ play beyond themselves by making them believe in themselves. This was the job of a leader. He should never destroy the self belief of his players. The body language of a captain was a good deal more important than all the speeches he would make in the pavilion. Imran reiterated his central thesis – that everyone had tremendous potential. It was merely a matter of getting it out. Reminding the audience of a favourite line from Robert Frost – “To take the path that is less trodden upon, and that’s what makes the difference” – Imran stated that fearlessness in taking the path others feared to take would make one strong, and draw on one’s potential.
In 1987 Imran retired at his peak having achieved all what he wanted to. Besides, he was unwilling to be at the mercy of the selectors anyway. However, Pakistan were then invited to the West Indies but no one was willing to lead the side and the team also refused to go. So General Zia gave Imran a way out. Hosting a banquet, he asked Imran to come out of retirement for the sake of the team. Imran obliged, taking a very poor team to the Caribbean. They won one and lost one as the series was drawn. It was the first time in 15 years that any team visiting the Caribbean had done it, and given a team that was nowhere near the West Indies, it was a remarkable achievement. “You are as big as the challenges you accept,” was his explanation.
Lastly, he dwelt on how a leader can command respect. Integrity was the key. Without integrity a leader could not command respect. National leaders, team leaders, be it anyone, they must earn the trust of their charges. It is only then that people will follow them. Leading by example was important. As a cricketer it was important never to expect your team to do anything which you wouldn’t do yourself. Be it in training or observing team discipline, the leader had to show the way for the rest to follow. This was a cardinal principle in establishing one’s credibility.
Leaders cannot break the law
Imran said that the third world was the way it was because it spawned leaders who broke every law, yet expected others to follow it. In Pakistan’s case he said that General Musharaff had desecrated the constitution but expected the common people and the police to follow the law. If you broke the law, everyone else also will. Imran spoke of his hospital which was the biggest charitable institution in Pakistan and which set high standards. It ran as a successful institution because no one broke its rules. Starting with himself – its chairman and founder – everyone observes the set criteria for admission. He was pressurized ceaselessly, particularly by his own constituency but to date he has not admitted one single patient out of turn. Neither has he taken any more staff than was necessary. So he doesn’t break the law and neither does anyone else. That was the key to its success. All he needed was to make one or two allowances, and the whole system would then collapse, because others would also follow suit. So, a leader must lead by example. If he wished his team to fight, he needed to fight himself.
The next important thing was courage. A cowardly leader was again a contradiction in terms. If one did not have the courage or ability to take the big decisions, one can never make a good leader. Good leaders always recognized the downside of any big decisions. There is no such thing as a risk free big decision. Every decision carried a risk. But a great leader would know the downside before he took that risk. That is bravery. A stupid leader will do something like the charge of the light brigade where you charge into the guns not knowing what opposition you got. “It is courage and bravery when you take a decision and as a result you know you will be wiped out at an election because you are up against the military establishment. And despite that you still go and fight the election – that’s bravery.”
Must be selfless, have no ego and ready to work with all
And finally, a leader has to be selfless. He must only be loyal to the cause. He must work even with those whom he resents or who irritate him. He must never put his ego in front of his cause. This is the biggest downfall of most people he said. Even in his own political party, leaders at various levels expect personal loyalty rather than loyalty to the bigger cause. Therefore, wrong selections are made, the team doubts the fairness and respect is lost. Then you have a hamstrung leader. It was important not to allow your ego to come in the way of your cause. Imran said that he learnt most of his lessons watching and analyzing others make mistakes.
There were two fundamental mistakes that one must avoid. They are, never to underestimate your enemy, and to be able to work with anyone to get the best of a team. Leaders must work with all individuals. “In my political party, there is this member of the central executive who irritates me, abuses me and each time we do badly, he unfairly criticizes me. But I can’t even think of excluding him from the central executive because there is a side to him which is extremely valuable to the party and as long as someone is valuable to your objective, you must work with him. It’s only when he becomes an impediment in reaching that objective that you kick him out. But never because you don’t like him. When the ego comes in, it is a very destructive force in achieving your objective,” said Imran in conclusion.
An Oscar winning performance
The only reason why Imran Khan didn’t receive the standing ovation he so richly deserved was because the audience was recovering from shock and forgot that courtesy. The shock of listening to the truth presented so candidly and without fear; two aspects that had almost gone out of style in his country. It was an Oscar winning performance which touched and lifted everybody and if the tiles on the roof rattled through the applause that followed, it was merely to signal the genuine and heartfelt appreciation of a grateful and inspired audience.
Bringing cricket’s glory days back
Rev. Br. Nimal Gurusinghe FSC
After several setbacks in cricket in recent years, the national cricket team is looking to regain past glories. I must congratulate the national selection panel headed by former fast bowler Pramodaya Wickramasinghe for some of the bold decisions they have taken over the past two months.
In the Caribbean, the selectors handed the first Test cap to Pathum Nissanka, who made a hundred on debut and then last week in the second Test against Bangladesh, the selectors blooded in Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets for 178, a Sri Lankan record for a debutant. It is also the tenth best figures by a player on debut in the history of Test cricket.
There is no doubt that we have talent in the country and bold moves such as these throwing the players into the deep end will bring us desired results.
I would like to see continuity in selections and for this to happen the current lot of selectors need to serve for a longer period of time. Our present system where we change selectors every year simply doesn’t help.
One of the things that I would like to see is resource personal like psychologists being brought in to assist our players. The modern day game has changed so much and a psychologist will be able to help players meet modern day demands. I see that teams like Australia, England and South Africa make use of psychologists. Although we too have done so, there is no continuity in this vital aspect.
One of the modern trends that I have seen in Sri Lankan cricket is our tail is too long. We do not have many tail-enders who are able to contribute towards the team’s total. We need to emphasize a lot on the tail getting exposure during training sessions and as a result they will be able to contribute towards the team’s total.
I am also glad to see that the selectors emphasizing a lot on fielding these days. At the same time, I would like to see them giving equal importance to fielding. This vital area has been neglected so long and that is one reason why we do not do well at present in one-day cricket. Sri Lankan teams of the past were on par with teams like Australia and South Africa when it came to fielding. But not anymore.
When we stress the importance on fielding in selections, if players are able to take half chances and create run outs that is going to be so crucial in crunch games.
Another aspect that I would like to see improve is running between the wickets. I can not recall when the last time a Sri Lankan pair completed three runs was. Physical fitness is so vital for this to happen.
Another thing that I would like to see happening is our players doing well not just at home but overseas as well. We are yet to win Test matches in Australia and England although we have been a Test playing nation for 40 years now.
I wish Pramodaya and his team good luck and look forward to see them transforming Sri Lankan cricket. Pramodaya is a member of the World Cup winning team and he knows what is required to become a champion team.
National badminton players dominate Summer Season Tournament in the hills
The hills were alive with the swish of rackets and smashing shuttles as the popular Summer Season Badminton Level I Championships came to a close last week. What was noteworthy was the performances of Sri Lanka’s top shuttlers who left no room for contention by winning all the plums of the scintillating competition. With Olympic prospect Niluka Karunaratne away on the international qualifying circuit and brother Dinuka domiciled in the UK on an advanced training program, the rest of the Elite Squad were equal to the task.
Ranthushka Karunatilake, for long in the shadows of his more renowned exponents came out fighting to get the better of the seasoned Buwaneka Gunetileke. The hunger Ranthushka displayed was plain to see for after giving up the first set, he clawed his way back to surprise the senior partner with a nerve wracking battle that went to the wire with a 21-19 score in the two following sets. Earlier, he partnered Buwaneka to clinch the men’s doubles with an overwhelming victory against evergreen contenders Clarence Homer and Hasitha Chanaka.
In the Women’s Open, Dilmi Dias had no major opposition clinching the women’s singles with ease against the up and coming Ranithma Liyanage before taking the women’s doubles with her partner, Kavindika de Silva. Young Ranithma just 13 years of age, though beaten in the final, is certainly making an emphatic statement in the sport. Badminton fans are sure to hear about her in the not-too-distant future.
Other top ranked players to impress were Rasindu Hendahewa and Viren Nettasinghe in the men’s category, while Panchali Adhikari and Madushika Dilrukshi were notable in the women’s category. Many others in the elite squad were not present due to on-going examinations, the likes of Lochana de Silva and Thulith de Silva and yesteryear champions Thilini Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimanage. Sachin Dias and Hasini Ambalangoda are nursing injuries following the Nationals and are expected to return to the courts in the Southern Open, late May.
Watching their charges keenly were the National Coaches led by Pradeep Welagedera assisted by Yukthi Perera, Rajitha Dahanayake and Subash Chanaka, while Chairman of the National Pools, Palitha Hettiarachchi had a good look at the National Pool players, especially those in the Elite Squad who have undergone a very high-level training and conditioning over several months.
SLB President Rohan de Silva who is always seen among the Badminton Masters winning several medals both here and abroad was at hand to witness the performance of est players in the country and also give the Summer Season event a big boost by ensuring all arrangements were fully supported to achieve a very high level of organization amidst the stringent Covid 19 protocols.
Bangladesh-Sri Lanka ODI series to be held in Dhaka
The upcoming three-match ODI series between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka, the BCB has announced.
The matches, part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, will be held on May 23, 25 and 28, within a bio-bubble stretching between the team hotel and the ground.
Sri Lanka will arrive in Dhaka on May 16, shortly after the Eid ul Fitr weekend, and complete a three-day quarantine. Their first practice session will be on May 19 at the National Cricket Academy ground, adjacent to the stadium. The visitors will then play a practice match at the BKSP on May 21. At the conclusion of the ODI series on May 28, the Sri Lankan team will depart on the following day.
This will be Bangladesh’s third ODI series within the ICC’s World Cup qualifying campaign. They are currently in seventh place, having beaten the West Indies 3-0 at home in January, but lost to New Zealand 3-0 in March. Sri Lanka lost to West Indies 3-0 last month, are now in 9th place.
The two teams only last week played out their final World Test Championship series, which Sri Lanka won 1-0 after a 209-run win over Bangladesh in Pallekele.
Sri Lanka will become the second international team to arrive in Bangladesh since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The BCB successfully hosted West Indies in January-February this year, in a three-ODI and two-Test series in Dhaka and Chattogram.
This will however be a different situation, since Bangladesh are in the middle of a strong second wave of Covid-19 cases. The country has been under a lockdown since April 5. The international flight suspension ended on May 1, but the country’s lockdown has been extended till May 16.
Bangladesh will be without their fast-bowling coach Ottis Gibson, with the team opting to use a local coach instead. (ESPN Cricinfo)
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