Lesson from Brisbane: Invest in human capital

Just like the Indian cricket team if we can bring in people from different cultures, regions, languages and classes into the mainstream of economic development then nobody can stop the 21st century genuinely becoming the Indian century.

Alok Ranjan | February 15, 2021


#Cricket   #sports   #economy   #development   #youth  
(image courtesy: Twitter/BCCI)
(image courtesy: Twitter/BCCI)

We have just witnessed a historic Test match and series win where an Indian team plagued with injuries to all its top bowlers and without their captain and best batsman, Virat Kohli, achieved a convincing win at Brisbane in Australia. Tremendous euphoria has greeted this historic win and it can be said that this will usher an era of dominance of world cricket by India. The victory has a great lesson for India as a nation and illuminates the path that India should take if this century has to become the Indian century.

The Brisbane Test followed a memorable victory at Melbourne where the stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane, scored a brilliant century to single-handedly lift the Indian spirits from the depths of gloom that they had plunged into after a shocking dismissal in the first Test match for a miserable score of 36. This was followed by a brilliant draw at Sydney where after the performances of Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin held out for close to forty overs against a hostile and menacing Australian attack to force a draw. It was an act of pure courage and determination. Let us move over to Brisbane with the Indian bowlers having a combined total of 11 wickets amongst themselves against about a thousand for Australia. The Indian side was without its best batsman, best bowlers and players who had just been roped in to fill in the vacancies created by injuries to all the top players. Anybody would have predicted a landslide win for Australia; yet the result was the opposite. Washington Sunder and Shardul Thakur together staged a wonderful rearguard action in the first innings to almost equal the scores. Thereafter, Mohammad Siraj and Thakur bowled magnificently to restrict Australia to a score under 300. Even then the target of 327 appeared unachievable. Even a draw seemed to be wishful thinking. Yet Pujara did not flinch while making a solid half century taking eleven blows to his body, Shubman Gill and Pant played the knocks of their lives getting support from Washington Sundar and India won. Right through India played for a win with positive intent and immense self-belief.

It was almost like watching the film ‘Lagaan’ in real life. The impossible happened because of the spirit with which the Indian team played confident of their abilities and committed to the goal of winning. This is a huge lesson for leadership if the same analogy can be applied to the Indian nation there would be a transformation in the Indian society and economy. Team spirit, self-belief, determination, goal focus, positive intent and never-say-die spirit are the learnings from this Test match for the Indian nation if it wants to move fast on the road of becoming of a developed nation.

Initially, cricket in India used to be the sport of the Maharajas and then was restricted to major urban centres like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai and to the urban middle class youth of these cities. In those days we played well at times but could not become the best. Things have changed now. India has players from the rural hinterland, different regions of the country and belonging to difference sections of society. It is a team fully representative of the diversity and pluralism that characterizes the Indian society and the nation. It is not only the new India, as Kohli said, but real India participating in the test matches. Someone is the son of an auto-rickshaw driver, somebody else is from a village background, there are those who could not afford shoes to play matches while almost all the new brigade members have stories of how they would wake up in the early hours of the morning and travel long distances to practise and play cricket. Naturally, this Indian team is full of hunger to win. They have come up through adverse circumstances purely on the basis of merit and performance and the determination to succeed. They have immense self-belief and are not overawed either by the opposition or by the situation. This is the resurgent India which the Indian team now epitomizes. In short, democratization of the Indian team has taken place and it is no longer the elites who get selected to play for India. Rahul Dravid in his Bradman oration has succinctly presented this by saying that the Indian team today consists of “People from different cultures, who speak different languages, follow different religions and belong to different classes.”

The above success story has a great lesson for the entire Indian nation. We are reaping the demographic dividend of having maximum number of people in the productive age group and if we can give them good and quality education it would be a transformative experience. Today thousands of young boys and girls are full of dreams but unable to realise them because of the dismal education that they get and often do not even complete their school education. They are, thus, severely constrained to make a mark in life and participate in the process of economic growth of the country. This leads to a situation of growing economic inequalities and widening of the chasm between the haves and the have-nots leading to social discord in the society with its negative consequences. I see so many young boys and girls full of potential but languishing in low-income jobs and slowly becoming frustrated and losing any inspiration to move up in their lives. If we can truly educate this human capital, give it quality healthcare and nutrition we would have millions of talented people who are skilled and employable and have the self-belief and confidence to grow in life and change the world around them. We have to ensure that we create a system where only merit, not nepotism, takes a person to the top of his or her career. Just like the Indian cricket team if we can bring in people from different cultures, regions, languages and classes into the mainstream of economic development then nobody can stop the 21st century genuinely becoming the Indian century.

Alok Ranjan (Retd. IAS) is former chief secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh.

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