Saturday, May 15, 2010

System and outliers

Harsha Bhogle writes about three reasons for the failure of India's campaign in the Twenty20 world cup,

Not one of these three shortcomings was unknown, and it would be easy to blame the system and the coaches for it. Teachers don't write exams, students do, and eventually they must figure it out themselves, and so we must return to attitude. There is no point blaming the pitches and the bowlers in domestic cricket for the inability to play short-pitched bowling. Gavaskar emerged from the same school, as did Tendulkar, Dravid and even Laxman. Abhinav Bindra and Saina Nehwal are products of such a system. Azharuddin emerged as one of the world's finest fielders. Greatness lies in rising beyond the system. It isn't the system, therefore, but work ethic that lies at the heart of success. I'm not saying India's cricketers don't possess it, it's just that they don't display it often enough.

I admire Harsha for a lot of things, including his deep knowledge of cricket and administration. However, I have to differ from him on this. There is a significant difference in the system where Sachin, Dravid, Kumble or Laxman came from and the current system. At that time, there was hardly any money in the domestic circuit. Today, a cricketer makes much more money from IPL, ODIs etc before they play a single test. This also reduces the time for practice and improving the talent.

Kumble, in Hindustan Times, writes

The pressure during the IPL is very different, as you are performing for your franchises. It's quite intense. Perhaps, the players felt more in their comfort zone when they went back into an Indian set-up and it cost them. It sounds odd but it makes sense. ...Their positive mindset was the difference between them and India, as evidenced by what Dhoni said after the loss to the West Indies. 'We'll play Lanka and go home'. India seemed already resigned to the fact that they were out and that was unacceptable.

The pressure for playing for franchises is higher than playing for India may be shameful and unacceptable but that seems to be the fact. Because the franchises pay more and makes one more accountable, players seem to put more pressure on themselves than when they play at the international level. The difference on the pressure seem to be as stark as a person who works in a startup company vis-a-vis a person who works in the government sector.

What this means is that the system is not geared to produce good players and we seem to depend on outliers to take us through and win events. Thus, it seems that players like Dravid and Kumble are outliers in the system. There are more than 1 billion people in India, 21 million in Australia and, yet Australia have a better win-loss record against every other country in all forms of the game. This does not happen by accident. Their system is consistently producing classy players, players who are "freaky" and can win matches from any situation. If the bowlers have an off-day and the top order fails (like yesterday's game against Pakistan), two players bail you out and the other team are shocked into submission and defeat.

The academic system in India is not different. We seem to be happy with producing outliers (like a CNR) and have no system in place to consistently produce the best talent or convert the talent you see in startup companies to work for government research institutions.


Anonymous said...

How many in the system are outliers?

L said...

Yes. Those who succeed to become great, do so INSPITE of their education not BECAUSE of it.