I was always a huge fan of Ajinkya Rahane's approach to the game - be it batting or leadership. He has a monk-like quality, a student's learning approach to cricket and life. I felt he was given a raw deal by the Indian team management in the past, dropping him when he was vice-captain, but he bore it all silently and prepared himself. And when the moment came, he was ready. I did not expect India to bounce back in the second test after the demoralising loss in the first, but when they did, I knew the reason - the leader. Here are 11 reasons why I think he is an exceptional leader, on par with the great MS Dhoni even.
1) When Fringe Players Perform Beyond Expectations, Look at the Captain
Everyone put up their hand, the most unlikely ones - Siraj, Sundar, Shardul, Vihari, Pant - the list goes on and on and includes everyone. When the fringe players play out of their skins, it is because they feel they have the space and the trust of their captain, and they go out and find their true selves. This has a lot to do with how the captain holds his space in the team. For being mature enough to allow that space, for creating that psychological safety to his team members, including the youngest and rawest, Jinks automatically becomes a great leader.
2) Actions Speak more than Words
Jinks is about action - not words. MSD was one such. Leaders lead with their actions, not with talk.
3) Transfers Ownership
A variant of the first but the great leader makes everyone feel like they own the cause - they do not feel like they are doing it for the captain - they feel they are doing it for themselves. Again, needs a mind space few have.
4) Is Not Afraid to Lose
Rahane is a great captain who will win more than he will lose simply because he is not afraid to lose. That does not mean that he will be complacent and lose or will look at the next match. He will gamble, he will push, and he will take every opportunity. He will not keep raiding the opponent den needlessly; he will do it with stealth and cunning and take away the cup.
5) He is Aggressive
Everything about Rahane's captaincy is about aggression - field placements, bowling changes, defensive strategies, offensive strategies. Not for a moment will he let the opponent breathe easy with his intuitive field placements, his bowling changes. His planning has been immaculate, his execution flawless.
6) He Creates Leaders
Jinks has already created many leaders in the team (Just as MSD had) by making them experience what it takes to be part of a winning outfit. Every member of this team now looks good enough to lead - such is the maturity they are displaying.
7) Everyone Performs - it's about the Team, not the Stars
Suddenly the team is in focus, everyone performs, not just one or two, and everyone takes the load. This is what makes world-beating teams, what makes teams that script historic wins. The team is suddenly not dependent on the stars and their star turns, everyone pitches their mite and together they bring down the opponents. Like they say, when a spider web unites, they can tie up a lion (or something like that).
8) The Team Just Won't Go Down
To bring in a psyche where one after another, everyone puts up their hand requires the presence of a master. The leader does not need to do anything, he just has to be. No need for motivational speeches, emotional outbursts, he just is - and things happen. Another quality of a great leader
9) He Leads from the Front
When the chips are down, he leads from the front. He absorbs the pressure and lets the others perform the role. When the team knows their skipper will lead from the front, they will be willing to die for him.
10) He Has Great Love and Respect for his Mates
They say that to make your soldiers die for you, you must love them like your children. The barrage of bouncers, of injuries the Indians faced but still put themselves across the line, speaks highly of the leadership. This is what I am willing to do for my team, my leader.
11) He is Like Water
Rahane has this quality which I believe is a great one in leaders - he is like water. He melts into the background, has almost no presence you can hold on to, but he is everywhere. Its the presence that allows everyone to speak, to express, to feel free to be themselves. Only the most non-judgmental and people with zero ego, can hold that space. Like Lao Tzu said - A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Ajinkya Rahane smiles shyly, is hardly seen in this team.. But he is the binding force the somehow brings them all together with his values and convictions, his presence and his wisdom. So much of MSD can be seen in him and surely MSD has influenced him. But so has Dravid and so has his wonderful learning mindset. I would love to see him in the leadership position more and more. It's rare to find such wonderful leadership qualities, such Level 5 leadership qualities. Well done Ajinkya Rahane. To me, you were the difference.