Mudar Patherya talks business and Sachin Tendulkar
What they don't teach you at Harvard Business School, you can learn by watching Sachin
In business, the ISO certification stands for process consistency. This means that if the process is stable, the end product will be consistent. When Tendulkar was a boy, he would wet tennis balls in his residential colony. He would then ask his friends to bowl at him. Most would assume that Tendulkar would do this to get the ball to come off the pitch faster; normally, wet tennis balls skid quicker and provide batsmen the feel of quicker bowling. Tendulkar was a child-strategist; he would inspect the face of the bat to see whether he had middled or not. If the shot was off-centre, he would tell himself to see the ball till the end. After all, if the process was right, the runs would come.
In business, the successful achievers respond to rapid economic, business and technology changes through re-skilling.
When Tendulkar failed in a couple of early 2011 World Cup matches, he went back to the drawing board. At nets, he did something unusual. Got the bowlers to throw balls from half-pitch. The conventional skilling process would have been to hit the balls thereafter. Tendulkar raised the bar. Once he had seen the ball early, he would shut his eyes, then drive the ball within an arc between where cover and point would have been. If he could do this with his eyes closed, then he reckoned that in the match he would be safe – with his eyes open.
In a world marked by diverse variables, the operative business word is ‘de-risking’.
A decade ago, the Australians figured that they had uncovered Tendulkar’s weakness. Feed him outside the off stump. Get him to open out on the off side. Induce him to edge. The bowlers reckoned that if they fed him outside the off stump, two things could happen. He would edge and be caught behind or in the slips. Or he would ignore temptation, be frustrated into runless-ness and give his wicket away. Tendulkar responded flexibly; he scored all round the wicket instead. Eventually, he scored 241 in the Sydney Test – without a single cover drive.
In business, success comes down to how you manage the fine print.
When Tendulkar played in high temperature regions, he recognised that he would first have to stand the test of personal fitness and stamina. So he would do something unusual: get up in the middle of the night to drink as much water as he could so that when he was engaged in a long innings the following day, he could be near-certain that he would have adequate liquids inside him to prevent him from cramping. Thereafter, his skill would take over.
In an industrial environment, success is drawn from high capacity utilization; gradually, this translates into ‘muscle memory’ or intellectual capital.
Tendulkar’s daily discipline was: practice 7-9 am, match 9:30-4:30 and practice 5:30-7. This was when he was 12 years old. As an extension, he played matches 54 days non-stop during one of his school vacations.
Value engineering is the shopfloor approach that makes it possible to get more from less.
Tendulkar would ask net bowlers to deliver from 16 yards. When one apologised after hitting him, Tendulkar is said to have told him ‘Make me uncomfortable!’ When Shane Warne prepared for the 1998 battle against him on Indian turf, Tendulkar ‘recruited’ Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to bowl round the wicket into the rough (which Tendulkar had artificially created). The result: he batted and batted, explored every possible delivery and once his muscle memory was adequate, he went ahead and ‘murdered’ Warne in the Test series.
In business, one needs to know which strategy to pursue: value-addition or cost-cutting.
In his maiden first-class match, Tendulkar scored a century. Not marked by distinctive hitting. On the contrary, Tendulkar calibrated his strokeplay – neither too hard for the ball to reach the outfielders fast and neither too soft for the close-in fielders to retrieve in a hurry. The result: he converted ones into twos and transformed twos into threes. He was only 15 then.
When you chase perfection, you achieve excellence along the way.
Tendulkar would watch the ball-by-ball replay of each of his Test innings.
Good businesses invest in cutting-edge technology. The higher investment is more than recovered through incremental returns.
Tendulkar would generally refuse runners whenever he was injured, because ‘I would be two yards faster anyway.’
Strong businesses innovate so extensively that when others are focusing on the conventional capture of market share, the strong businesses would have created a new market instead.
Television commentators discovered that when Tendulkar batted, there would be an extraneous sound just before he played a shot. They went back to the studios. They slowed the frames. The ball was not making any additional sound. The bat was not rubbing against a pad or any other object. Much later, they concluded that the sound would be coming only from the batsman. This is what they discovered: Tendulkar would audibly predict how many runs he would score off that ball – between the time it had been bowled and been played. ‘Two!’ if he felt there was an opportunity. ‘Four!’ if he felt the delivery was a lollipop.
Mudar Patherya watched Sachin Tendulkar make his debut in Karachi 1989 before switching careers to write on business