By Anand Philar
In the Corporate corridors, few eyebrows would have been raised when Vijay Mallya sacked Charu Sharma as the CEO of the Bangalore Royal Challengers team for “non-performance” in the ongoing Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament. It is an accepted fact in the Corporate World that you either perform or perish. There are no gray areas or half-measures. However, in a sporting environment, it is debatable whether such an extreme step is justified.
In a way, Mallya has sent out a strong signal that the huge salaries that IPL is offering is linked to performance. As a team owner, he has every right to hire and fire personnel, but we need to ask how much of IPL is sport and how much is business. The moneys in IPL are huge no doubt and with that come attendant obligations and responsibilities.
However, in sport, success is not guaranteed. The team owners could well pay heed to this premise and view the performances of their team in proper perspective. The sooner the team owners stop number crunching as if it were one of their business ventures, the better it is for the game.
Mallya has publicly blamed Charu and skipper Dravid for the overall choice of players, a majority of whom enjoy impeccable credentials in other forms of cricket — ODI and Tests. The point is that T20 demands a different set of skills and puts a premium on mental and physical fitness. Unfortunately, the highly priced Challengers players have failed to deliver and most of them have been cruelly exposed, unable to cope with the pace and intensity levels of a T20 game.
South African Jacques Kallis, for instance, was bought at US$ 900,000, but his performance so far has been rather disappointing. He is clearly struggling to maintain an even keel and the same could be said of Dravid, Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Mark Boucher and Shivenaraine Chanderpaul. Small wonder then that the Challengers are referred to as an excellent “Test team” rather than one suited for T20.
During the preliminary bidding, Mallya had every opportunity to impose his will (as he should have) regarding the choice of players, but as per his own admission, he went by the judgments of Dravid and Charu. Having done so, one expected Mallya to stick by his team especially during the bad times such as now rather than indulging in summary firing and hiring. Brijesh Patel’s appointment as replacement for Charu has not altered the course the Challengers are sailing on and one can expect the listing ship to submerge.
The off-shoot of Mallya’s act of sacking the CEO is that it has only demoralized a team that is on the verge of a virtual collapse. One can well visualise the mood in the Challengers dressing room with every player looking over his shoulder in fear rather than forward. It is a case of a badly planned business venture that has gone horribly wrong, something that Mallya should gracefully accept instead of pointing accusing fingers at everyone else while absolving himself.
For sure, the generally high quality of the IPL has caught out even the most experienced players, leave alone the team owners, most of whom have no clue about cricket. Quality as in the T20 context and not to be confused with ODI or Tests that in any case is the pinnacle of cricket.
With both T20 bowlers and batsmen constantly experimenting with techniques and strategies in a bid to come out on top, the game is evolving almost from game to game. The seniors are perhaps finding it difficult to keep pace with the rapid developments.
VB Chandrasekar, the director for cricketing operations of Chennai Super Kings remarked the other day that T20 was more about spontaneity. “I have had a ringside view of the IPL and I can say that things happen so fast that more often than not, your reactions are spontaneous. There are moments when it all boils down to your mental and physical reflexes rather than training or strategy. You have to be alert all the time. There is no respite,” he said.
Even a young man like Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted the other day that a T20 game took a lot out him. “You require at least 24 hours to recover after a T20 game,” he said. The IPL, with all the constant travel and training, is perhaps the most demanding series or tournament in cricket. Is it any wonder then that the older lot are beginning to show signs of strain and stress?
Mallya and his ilk need to factor in these points before jumping to conclusions. A CEO, like the captain, is only as good as his team. The IPL in its first season has been a learning process for just about everyone involved. Certainly, it will be different next year with the teams and their owners having the benefit of hindsight and perhaps, a 20-20 vision!
The Royal Challengers, like Mallya’s other property, Force India Formula One team, is up against the Ferraris and McLarens of cricket. If anything, both are in for a long haul. Success cannot be bought. You have to work for it.