Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Lessons to Learn from Harmanpreeet Kaur's Magnificent Semi-Final Knock

There are times when we face situations that require us to do something extra ordinary to win. When you could seize the moment and make it yours, when you could create a win out of a potential loss. When you display Personal Leadership at its best. These situations throw themselves at us on a regular basis. Just like it happened to Harmanpreet in the Women's World Cup semi-final. Can we convert a probable loss into a win? By design?

Much has been written about Harmanpreet's innings of 171 from 115 balls that knocked Australia out of the Women's World Cup semi-final and is still being written. That it is the best knock in women's cricket, that it takes women's cricket to a new level, that it is the best World Cup knock by an Indian etc.

Let me analyse the lessons to learn from it - on how to turn in a match winning performance when the heat is on. More so when it is a match your team has to win against a tough and supremely confident opponent. You have to turn in something superlative, something out of the world, and she did it. Here's my understanding of what she did right.

Lesson No 1. Understand the situation, Play Yourself In
Harmanpreet knew the significance of the game. India had lost badly to Australia in the earlier round and though they bounced back and beat New Zealand to get into the semis, the team was visibly wary of the strong Australian side. The loss of two early wickets for 36 and some disciplined bowling by the assured Aussies meant that she and Mithali Raj had to build the road, slowly, brick by brick. She did not try and dominate right away. She got her bearings first and understood the situation. In the first 39 balls she scored 19 runs.

Patience. You cannot get runs if you are back in the hut despite the grandest of intentions. To make a difference you must be out in the middle.

Lesson No 2. When You Start Seeing the Ball, Hit it
Once Harmanpreet started seeing the ball and realised that there were no demons in the bowling nor the wicket nor the weather, she started hitting the ball hard. Clean cricketing shots mind you. Fully in control. She adjusted her shots intelligently to find the fence more than once but always played correct cricketing shots that had low chances of getting her out. Full face of the bat, high backlift, watch the ball and smack it.

Play safe. Play hard. Push hard from safety.

Lesson No 3. Don't Take the Foot Off The Accelerator
Many great innings are marred by the slowdown near the hundred. Like her idol Sehwag, Harmanpreet did not slow down. But she went one better. Where Sehwag gets it over with a six, she hit hard shots along the ground. Not for a moment did she slow down for her hundred; she still stepped out as aggressively and hit the ball as hard as she could. No slow single, then another for her hundred. The ball was there, the team needed the runs and she was going for it.

Don't slow down the momentum for personal targets. Keep going. It's the same bowling, the same wicket, the same situation.

Lesson No 4. Keep the Partnership Going
Harmanpreet stitched a brilliant partnership with Deepti Sharma who played a wonderful supporting role. The moment she got strike the left hander dutifully took a single and gave the strike back which apparently was the plan and a very sensible one too. Such a wonderful partnership, such self less play, I have not seen in years. Harmanpreet went for a stretch two on 98 and was livid that Deepti almost got herself run out on a reluctant second. No celebration for the hundred, just livid that such a crucial partnership almost got cut short because of a bad judgment call by her partner. The two put on 137 runs that put Australia out of the game, Deepti got 25 of those.

Build partnerships. Nurture them. Care for them (even if you have to shout at them). Then put your arms around them. It's all about partnerships. You cannot do it alone.

Lesson No 5. Don't Be Easily Satisfied
Many greater players have been guilty of giving up their wickets after reaching the 100. Satisfied that they did their part. That a 100 in a world cup semi-final is a big deal and especially under these circumstances. A casual smile, a big shot, a cute reverse sweep - how many times have we seen these show off tactics in men's cricket that ended their innings. But no such cuteness from Harmanpreet. She was fully focussed. There was a job to be done and it was far from over. She knew the Australians could always threaten whatever the score - and they did. She knew she had to bat them out of the game.

Don't be easily satisfied. When you are in, keep going. Keep building. Good is not good enough. Go for great. What will make the difference is what you do after that 100.

Lesson No 6. Keep Going Through the Pain, Glory Does Not Come Easy
One inside edge and she hurt herself. The slight hobble was evident. The fatigue certainly should be showing now. One false shot was expected. One foolish shot. One small loss of concentration. But despite the pain, fatigue, sheer number of balls she was facing, she kept going, on and on.

There will be pain when you want glory. No excuse. Pain, rain, whatever. Keep going through it.

Lesson No 7. You Have Not Finished the Job Until You Have Dominated the Opponent Out of the Game
It is easy to go for a big shot and get out after her 150, when the job was almost done. No one would have minded. She was tired, she was in pain, she had done more than enough. Not for her. There is a difference between almost done and fully done. The job was still to be done. India was well past 200 and going to 250. But she still hit correct cricketing shots. She did not lose her concentration.

By now she had in some parts achieved what she set out to do. She had pushed the Aussie team into confusion; their body language was down, their confidence shattered. They had no answers. She had beaten them mentally. She still did not let go. She did not take the luxury of dragging the off side ball to midwicket - she still hit the ball through cover for four. Even in the last couple of overs.

Dominate the opponent, beat them into dust when you can. Don't let them get up. Show no mercy. Always be wary that the one extra run could make the difference.

Lesson 8. Balance Aggression With Caution
It was not pure aggression. Aggressive she was but this knock was more about how she blended it with an amazing amount of caution. No false shot, no unnecessary risks, just pure clean hitting. Nothing fancy ever, no deVilliers like fancy footwork though it must have been tempting.

Aggression with caution. Push without losing your position of safety. Don't over reach and yet don't take the pressure off.

Lesson No 9. Do What You Know, Do Not Attempt What You Don't
Harmanpreet backed her strengths, her strong areas and kept going. She never tried things she did not know, never played those net shots you do once in a while when ego and pride takes over after you piled up a big score and you desperately want to show the world your expertise.

Follow the process. Do what you can do. Don't do what you cannot. Remove all that is not you.

Lesson 10. Always the Team, Never Herself
Harmanpreet, if anything, played for the team and not for herself. Clearly that was the only thing on her mind. Not her six hitting prowess, not her shot selection, nothing. She just wanted enough on the board and did everything she could - hobbling through her uns, hitting through, keeping the partnership going, right till the last ball.

If you play for the team, a bigger purpose, you hit your best form far more often than otherwise. You hit the zone when you go past the ego, the I.

Those are my 10 lessons from Harmanpreet's knock. In times when you are faced with a situation when your team needs you to bail it out, when it needs you to do the impossible, think of what this young lady did, and you could pull it off too and cover your team with glory.

Good luck and go for glory!


Jayasrinivasa Rao said...

Superb analysis, Hari ... I hope some newspaper or sports magazine picks this up ...

Harimohan said...

Thanks Jay! Glad you liked it.