Hussain's straight bat to Bhogle's googlies

| Updated on: Oct 04, 2011
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The conversation is getting along quite nicely when ace commentator Harsha Bhogle bowls a quicker one to Nasser Hussain, the Chennai-born, gritty, former England captain: “How do you handle the genius in your team, your best player on the field, who is not conforming to the team, like a (Brian) Lara?”

Hussain is not found wanting. Quick off the bat, the articulate cricketer says, “The way I would handle it is I would bring him into the team, rather than have him on the outside. I would perhaps make him vice-captain. If you put the ball in someone's court and give them responsibility they tend to react positively.”

Turing to the audience, comprising the cream of Chennai's corporate world, Bhogle asks them, “A temperamental sales manager who sets his own rules spoils team spirit, but he's someone you also need; maybe you corporate leaders need to think about it because you all had someone like that whom you cannot do without, but then a Lara cannot be like someone else. He would probably have been the best sales-person you had but he wouldn't have made a good sales manager.”

Bhogle goes on to relate an anecdote about Virender Sehwag, who had just made a duck. “He asked V.V.S, Laxman, how much did you get? A duck? Sehwag told V.V.S, don't worry, I also got a duck but I got it in three balls, why did you take 22 balls?” At which point the hall erupted in laughter.

‘Nokia Conversations'

Bhogle and Hussain were on stage in a ‘Nokia Conversations' here today as part of the handphone major's quarterly series of such events. Hussain talked about the challenges of leading the England team, blending the more experienced players (Atherton, Stewart, Gough, Thorpe and Caddick) with the youngsters (Vaughan, Hoggard, Flintoff) and other challenges he faced as a captain, while Bhogle skilfully drew parallels between Hussain's observations on leadership and leading a cricket team with the challenges faced in the corporate world.

Hussain is largely credited with turning around the English cricket team, which was languishing at the bottom of the table when he took over after the 1999 World Cup. In the four years he was captain, England defeated Sri Lanka and Pakistan away and West Indies at home and drew an exciting home series with India. Though he could never defeat old nemesis Australia in an Ashes series, the seeds of England's Ashes victory in 2005 were sown by Hussain.

Hussain drew the audience's attention to the importance of personnel. The team is only as good as the captain; but, having said that, a good captain will always bring out the best from his players and make them perform beyond their potential. He emphasised the point that different circumstances needed different kinds of leadership. To which Bhogle recalled how India needed a captain like Sourav Ganguly after the match-fixing scandal. But, by 2005, despite Ganguly's success, it was evident that he was struggling as a captain and the mantle had to pass to Rahul Dravid.

Bhogle spoke about how Hussain's team, when it toured India in late 2001, came away with a creditable 0-1 loss in the Test series and how different it was from the English teams that toured in the past, where the excuses (Delhi Belly, heat, humidity, crowds, etc) were trotted out even before the first ball was bowled. Hussain dwelt on the crucial role planning played in touring a country like India. He also said that before touring India he had decided to enjoy the tour, go out as often as possible with his team mates and soak up the culture and atmosphere, and learn to enjoy it as much as they could. This, he said, helped his team a great deal in handling the pressure on the pitch in front of an often partisan capacity crowd. “It prepared us better to go out in front of 60,000 fans at Kolkata than if we were just staying in the hotel and hopping on to the bus to the stadiums,” he said.

Man management

The former captain also spoke about man management as not all members are (and shouldn't be) alike. Some are extremely talented and others are less talented but more hard-working. His way of getting the best out of some of the talented but more volatile players was to give them responsibility and make them more involved in the team's affairs.

“I always made (Graham) Thorpe in charge of the rules! If anyone asked me what time we were leaving for the stadium, I would point to Thorpe and say, ask him!”

Some of the less talented players, who are nevertheless crucial for the team's success, should also be appreciated by the captain more openly as that does wonders to their self esteem and confidence. Once these less-talented but hard-working cricketers know that they have the captain's confidence, they would give more than 100 per cent effort.

Another interesting point made by Hussain was that if the captain also has the fear of failure, it is easier for him to relate with his team-mates who also suffer from the same syndrome. This probably was one of the reasons why brilliant players often don't make great captains as they can't often understand or relate to their team-mates' insecurities.

Captain must be friends with players

How far can a captain go in being mates with his players, asked Bhogle. Hussain said it is important for the captain to be friends with his players and let them know that he's one of them, but the captain should also know where to draw the line. At the end of the day the captain is the leader and it pays to be a bit stand-offish. Though there's nothing like honesty and trust to make players believe in you, emphasised the cricketer.

A great leader is one who credits his successes to his team but blames himself for failures, said Hussain, adding that that was one attribute he admired in his ex-team mate and captain, Mike Atherton.

Hussain also said that as a leader you can't “tick all the boxes” but if you can tick most of them, you'd be a successful captain.

Published on October 04, 2011

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