Can we all learn something from the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final? by Matthew Weihs
At the eleventh hour I was lucky enough to obtain a couple of tickets to the ladies cricket World Cup final at the home of cricket, Lords, last Sunday. I thought it would be a wonderful way to inspire my daughter (pictured here with Heather Knight, England's captain) to appreciate that the world of sport doesn't have to belong to men. It certainly achieved this but it also provided an inspirational business lesson. Cricket, of course, is the players' profession and their business which we sometimes forget; what I witnessed that day will stay with me for a very long time.
India did very well. In the field they kept the pressure on and, although they made a few mistakes which, in the end would turn costly, they kept taking wickets and putting pressure on England. At half time I thought the score of 228 posted by England was 20 or so runs light and when India took the field I looked to be proved right as they comfortably took the score to 191-3 with plenty of time in the bag. The writing was on the wall for England and it was India's to lose. What happened next will be remembered in the sporting annals with India collapsing in 30 balls and losing all their wickets in just 28 runs. The World Cup being snatched by England from a hopeless position.
This was a special day for both sets of supporters. India were the underdogs and fought well but it was England's belief that won them this game. A harsh lesson for India - but, on reflection there were some critical moments that defined this game that can be applied to business.
Heather Knight had a horror match in her personal performance but showed her value as a leader. She was out for one run and the timing of her dismissal put pressure on her team and slowed the progress of the innings; when she came onto bowl at a critical time she bowled poorly and had to remove herself after only one over; and she dropped a crucial catch in the middle of the innings.
Cricket is deemed a long match (too long for some) but it is defined by small moments and, when your chance comes, you have to take them. When you're out, you're out, when you drop a catch that moment could be your only chance in a match. Knight's head could have dropped - mine did as I sat in the crowd surrounded by dancing and whooping Indian supporters - but her mind set was outstanding. The decision to take herself off just after one over was inspired. Probably overlooked by many but she, as leader, could have bowled for longer, given it a go, and the game could and probably would have slipped away. To identify your own weaknesses and be honest with yourself and the team was leadership at the highest level. Knight is only 26 and this event was being watched by over 20,000 at the ground and an estimated 100m on the television (numbers never reached before for women's cricket) - the temptation to want to impress on the day never entered her head. It was getting the best from the team around her that mattered.
With her own performance being dented across all departments Knight never stopped moving and encouraging in the field. Her attitude, as well as all the other team members, was to enjoy the occasion. They joked, smiled, clapped and saw opportunities in every ball (even when hit to the boundary). Shrubsole, the hero on the day, said that the team knew that they just needed one chance to change the direction of the game. And they didn't stop believing that. This mind set of the team was what won the day - they had trust in each other as team that, if they kept plugging away doing the right things, that their business would be done. India, on the other hand felt the pressure, clearly exuded their fear of loss and exposed their immaturity as a team.
When England had their chance to turn the screw they did it with professional accuracy. This was their chance and they took it ruthlessly. Knight pushed herself and her fielders closer to the bat, she created pressure, they grew in stature - the Indians were dwarfed by the fielding side. In a game of 7 hours it took only 15 minutes for England to turn a defeat to victory.
I came away from the game delighted - the game was high entertainment, full of drama and passion. But on reflection my admiration for this team grew over this week. So many times they could have capitulated and given in. Business is hard sometimes, we can all feel that it isn't our day but can we show the same resilience to get through. Team spirit is a hard thing to cultivate but this band of sisters demonstrated that, if you support and believe in those around you, anything is possible. We must, as business people, find the right people with the right mindset in our organisations that can do this.
Leadership like Knight's is a hard thing to manufacture but it came from the base of a strong team ethic. She knew her players and trusted them to trust her - so she didn't need to perform. We all have bad days but she was aware that she is only a cog in the wheel and there is back up. Knight's leadership gave a wonderful lesson in how to read your team members, yourself, to be honest and have the end goal in mind not your personal performance at the heart of all your actions.
Situations can change to your favour or against you in the blink of an eye. You have to manufacture chances and take them ruthlessly when they appear - when the momentum is against then rely on your experience and the hard-graft you put in. And, unlike, the Indian's, when momentum changes, try not to let it change your mindset - stay positive and calm and focus on the job in hand.
A lot of praise has to go to the coaching and leadership of England's cricket - they have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of ladies cricket but it was the players who shone this week. They defined what professional sportspeople should act like. We are bombarded by sports that are driven by greed, self promotion and ego. These ladies showed what team and leadership was all about.