(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.
Dilshi stamps her class with national record
Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships
by Reemus Fernando
Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.
Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.
The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.
Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.
Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).
On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.
In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.
In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.
The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.
Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.
The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.
COPE; a toothless tiger?
by Rex Clementine
Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the legislature.
Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.
In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.
There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.
Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.
However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.
At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.
The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law. From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.
Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title
Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.
Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final.
In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4.
Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.
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