Playing it safe

Playing it safe

The winning Way: learnings from sport for managers
Anita Bhogle & Harsha Bhogle
Westland and Tranquebar
2011, pp 226
Rs. 200

So, when he writes a book on the worlds of sport and management, you expect a lot and perhaps, it is my fault for having expected so much. The book, The Winning Way by Anita and Harsha Bhogle with a foreword by Mukesh Ambani and the last word by Rahul Dravid actually promises much but leaves more than a little to be desired. Incidentally, Rahul Dravid’s short chapter is one of the high points of the book. Perhaps, Harsha Bhogle has been influenced by his co-commentator Sunil Gavaskar whose normal reaction to any situation was — “India must play to save the game” — and this when they were probably 300 runs ahead with six wickets in hand! Perhaps, Sunil was influenced by his team’s poor performances. How I wish Harsha had been guided by Shane Warne’s philosophy of “how can we win from here?” however difficult the situation was. Harsha’s book has many things going for it. It is conversational. The book has a number of references to sports which makes it interesting. The book has had extensive research that has gone into it and both cricketers and corporate leaders’ views have been liberally included in the book. The book is manageable with just 10 chapters and 196 pages and is extremely easy to read and I am sure the reader will take away quite a bit from the summaries at the end of the chapters.

What might have been different?

I wish Harsha had resisted the temptation to make it a public relations piece that one normally reads in newspapers and magazines. Whilst many of India’s corporate leaders have been quoted, the reality is that many of their comments are fairly innocuous and inane. Their comments actually take away from the overall readability of the piece.

Harsha might have stayed with winning teams and analysed them at length, whether it was the Australian cricket team from 95 to 2007, the West Indian team of the ‘80s or the Manchester United team and the learning, thereon instead of merely referring to them.

Many of the anecdotes used in cricket too are fairly well-known and hence lack the element of surprise or newness. Clearly, it is a book meant for Indian audiences, hence the frequent references to Indian cricketers who have rarely, if ever, been part of winning teams. Harsha’s strong desire not to ruffle feathers has made the book far less readable. A case in point is when he talks about an Indian cricketer being reluctant to play in the bouncy pitch of Perth. Why not name the cricketer? I wish he had talked about Saurav Ganguly and his opting out of the Nagpur test on the morning as the curator strangely had prepared a green top. I wish Harsha had remembered an advertising point of view — “Love me or hate me, but for God’s sake, don’t ignore me.”

Harsha’s book is readable. Will probably do well, supported as it is by corporate India. People in management will benefit from it, as it has good principles worth reading and applying. But, I only wish he had rocked the boat just a little more. It is this diffidence that makes this book less than great.

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