Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lessons to learn from cricket for nation building......

It’s great to be a world beater in cricket. Now let’s make that happen in the more important sphere of nation building. If a bunch of a few dozen Indians can bring so much success, victory and joy to the entire nation, why can’t the millions of other hard working people involved in nation building do the same? They can, but we have a few lessons to learn from our success in cricket.

Cricket in India has followed a capitalist design. Its run by a private company called BCCI and in spite of all the many allegations of poor corporate governance, on balance, you have to give it to them that they have delivered for India. Admittedly, BCCI has been that cricket has always been a loved sport in India. But they have also played a role in making cricket successful. They’ve invested in building cricket Indian stadia are amongst the best in the world. Now let’s come to the players. They are paid handsomely! Not like in the past when a Sunil Gavaskar had to work for the Indian Railways or SBI and earn his living even while he played for India for glory. Today, BCCI makes it worthwhile for crickets to stay focused on their cricket; it pays an annual “salary” to the players which is between Rs 25 lacs and Rs 1 crore per annum depending on the category of player. The training budgets are handsome too.....a foreign coach and his entourage cost a fair amount of money.

Very importantly, the team gets the adulation of the country. The captain is put to a grind, but when he emerges victorious, is treated like God. The ace batsman is in fact called God! Of course, the cricketers slog their butt off. But they’re more than adequately compensated for it. It’s a capitalist model.....the winner takes it all. If you’re not good enough, you are dumped. It’s no different in the film business. Those who give hits are held sky high; those who deliver flops are dumped into the deep oceans. It’s ruthless and though this builds stress in the system, it propels us faster than any other model. In contrast, look at our Olympics and Commonwealth Games infrastructure. It’s totally Government run and it rots.

Here are just three things to focus on:

1)      Let’s empower the babus: Firstly, let’s pay them market salaries. The Cabinet Secretary is the senior-most babu in the country.....the CEO of the country or the captain of the team in a way (we’ll come to the political masters later). Let’s agree to treat him as one. Given his qualifications, his experience and the importance of his job, lets pay him a salary of Rs 5 crores per annum.....with an add-on bonus of another Rs 5 crores if he were to achieve certain pre-set goals. Let’s give him a free hand in choosing his team. Let’s empower him with decision making powers......Let’s set goals for him; let’s demand results. The Cabinet Secretary will report to the Cabinet....which will work as the Board of Directors providing strategic direction and approving the strategy of the CEO, but not interfering on a day to day basis. Remember the Constitution wants it this way provides for a separate executive and a separate legislature (at present however, the politicans are both law makers as well as executives). Running the country will be the CEO’s job. Making laws will be the job of the Cabinet and Parliament. So deciding whether 2G spectrum should be governed by the principle of “revenue maximization” or not will be decided by the cabinet. But executing that decision flawlessly will be handled by the CEO. All parts of the Executive (CBI, Election Commission, RBI, Enforcement Directorate, I.Tax dept etc) will report to the CEO.....not to the politicians.
2)      Let’s make changes in our politics: There are two major things to clean up. First is the corruption and second, the poor governance standards (time taken for decision making, execution of decisions etc). To clean up the first, let’s make provisions for funding the election process. Lets provide a special cess (I know people will groan at this!) to fund elections. But I am not saying we add to the tax burden. Instead, the present education cess should be removed and replaced with the election cess.....after all, if we take care of the elections, we would have taken care of education and other priority areas as well. Also, let’s pay the law makers well. The PM must be paid a salary of Rs 5 crores per annum as well with an annual bonus structure as decided by the Parliament. All cabinet ministers must be paid that they don’t get the impression that they are doing the nation a favor. This will encourage good people to make a living out of politics. The job of politicians as mentioned earlier is to make laws for the country; not to run the executive function. To clean up the second, let’s make changes in the election rules. Coalition politics is here to stay; so let’s recognize this reality. Coalitions must largely be pre-poll ones. If a pre-poll alliance wins, that’s how it should stay for 5 years. If it does not win a majority, post-poll coalitions can be allowed; but all coalition partners are duty bound to stick together for 5 years (except in truly unique circumstances). This needs more debate but let’s have that debate.
3)      Lets provide the right environment: As citizens, lets cheer the high performers and let’s boo out the poor ones. But let’s not get negative. Let’s not stone the houses of our leaders when they lose a match once in a while. No once can ever be successful 100% of the time. Even Dhoni has only won 62% of the matches as captain. Most importantly, let’s not be cynical. Let’s not mock our politicians and babus. If anyone feels he is better suited, let him join the process; rather than stay out and crib.

But for all this to work, we also need a responsible media. I differ from many in what role media should play. In my mind, the role of media is to transform a society. To encourage progressive thinking in the country; not merely reflect the mood of the people; Media has to lead the nation. If the society is orthodox, media must force it to become modern. Media has to be in the vanguard of progress. It must be a catalyst to build the mood. It must help separate the chaff from the grain. It just cannot be venal; nor can it become a power broker. It has a very important role to play in a democracy. And let it not misuse it.

The real truth is that we can repeat in nation building what we have achieved in cricket. Provided.....we show the same zeal and hunger for a win. Can we do it???

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