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Leadership Lessons from Sunil Gavaskar

Posted on: 20 April '10

Last Friday, thanks to Deutsche Bank, Sunil Gavaskar visited our Chennai office and I was fortunate enough to be present there. Gavaskar had lunch with us, was curious about our office and the work we do, and fielded many a tough question with the ease with which he dealt with the West Indian fast bowlers. This blog is about the leadership lessons I learnt during that short interaction.

1. A leader can tell stories:

Gavaskar told us the story of when his uncle Madhav Mantri (who had played twice for India) was chief guest at a school function. The year was 1979, and by then, Sunil Gavaskar was idolized for his centuries and record breaking spree. The Principal of the school needed to introduce Madhav Mantri. So Mantri told the Principal, you need to ask the students, “who is your favorite cricketer”, and when they say “Gavaskar”, you just need to say “Madhav Mantri is his uncle.”

The Principal thought this was a good idea, and asked the students, “Who is your favorite cricketer”? The students responded, “Kapil Dev”.

Apart from telling stories, Gavaskar demonstrated his ability to crack jokes at himself.

2. A leader has a sense of humor:

One person in the audience asked Gavaskar to describe his “36 not out” experience. Gavaskar took it with humour and said it was “indescribable”. He also went on to list other embarrassing moments, like getting out in the first ball of a Test match three times, but said no one ever has a question on those.

When asked if he prefers T20 or Tests, he said T20 – there’s less fielding to do in it! He continued that all ambitious cricketers will aspire to perform in Tests.

3. A leader is self aware:

I asked him why he never chose to coach the Indian team. He said he is not a good observer of cricket, and a coach needs that ability. He said, as a player, he’d carry books with him, and often get immersed in the books if he got out early.

4. A leader is grounded in reality, and gratefully shares credit:

Someone asked why India has produced only one Sunil Gavaskar, one Sachin, and one Kapil Dev. Sunil’s response was revealing. First he went on to mention names of several other outstanding Indian cricketers and said they are as good.Next he said these stars, including himself, could not have been successful without the support of the ten other players in the team.

He went on to reveal another interesting aspect of success. He said for every star, their second season is the most testing. By this time, their game has been analyzed by the rivals, so they have a different level of challenge. And it requires an excellent family support system, he said, to keep your feet on the ground with all the adulation and attention you have started receiving.

5. A leader is well read, and has good communication skills:

While this is obvious, I mention this as many highly skilled professionals believe such skills are not important. And Sunil Gavaskar’s skills at these are quite visible – which is probably why he has been outstanding at more than one career.

Mindtree Blog Archives

Mindtree blog Archives are a collection of blogs by various authors who have independently contributed as thought leaders in the past. We may or may not be in a position to get the authors to respond to your comments.

  • Geetha

    Many Masters, Many Lessons…..

    Dear Mr. Banerjee,

    You have earned my undying gratitude by writing about the Original Little Master and Wall, Sunny Gavaskar! How can anybody forget the way Gavaskar handled – with great aplomb and sometimes with a touch of disdain too? – all the furious deliveries that Malcolm Marshall and Co., Lillee and Thomson, Lever and Old, Imran and Sarfraz and other renowned fast bowlers hurled at him? And let’s not forget that he accomplished all this sans a helmet too!

    And the ‘famous walk-out’ incident at the MCG in 1981 proved beyond doubt that this fearless, gentleman competitor did not care for being abused in an unfair manner.

    Thank you very much for sharing these leadership lessons from the Great Master!



  • Thanks, Geetha. And Gavaskar did all this at a time when Indians, specially Indian sport, were not used to success, and did not find enough to celebrate. In a way, he built the foundations of national pride.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Kalyan.

  • Dear Mr Banerjee,
    A great way to share the lessons with specific references. Indeed, cricket(for that matter any sport) does teach one a lot. Thanks for sharing in these lessons.

  • Vinay

    We must never forget the qualities of Sunny. Apart from his cricket, he is a great human being with amazing sense of humor & intellegence..
    Sunny can be hero/idol in many ways not only to young cricketers but all those who aim to become pleasnt, nice person in life..

  • Sandeep Ganguly

    Sir, thanks for sharing this. Just dropping in a few lines to let you know. You are still a source of learning for me. Thanks a lot.

  • abhay

    Thanks for sharing this Kalyan 🙂 The name Gavaskar itself creates so much awe that never cared to think about the man behind the name!! He is truely a great guy.

  • Nagendra

    Dear Kalyan,
    Thanks for sharing this. Though I am late to respond, better late than never. Gavaskar’s innings were always looked up by others in Test matches. His ability to tackle the great West Indian bowlers with ease was well appreciated. His famed battles with Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee were the talk of the town then.We used to hear ball to ball commentary on the small transistors then and were thrilled whenever he hit a century. Thanks once again sharing the leadership lessons.