Beyond the Ashes: Business lessons from cricket

21st November, 2017

Beneath the googlies, wrong’uns, hoopers, seamers, darters, nudges and nurdlers the often-baffling game of cricket offers great business lessons.

The intersection of business and sport is a treasure trove business leaders have been trying to raid for decades — it’s why ex-players are often paid handsomely to go on corporate speaking tours.

To those who aren’t looking particularly closely, they’ll see a game being played.

To those applying critical thinking to the game, they’ll see a team of people or an individual trying to achieve an outcome while facing a force trying to stop them from achieving that aim.

For those in competitive industries, the lessons are relevant.

While you’re watching the Ashes this week, look just beneath the fire and brimstone and you’ll see the same sort of thinking that can help your business.

READ: Lessons from an Italian disaster

It’s an individual game about partnerships

That may seem a contradiction, but those who have played the game know that while the game is about individual skill, working as a team is crucial.

For example, think about when a new batter comes to the crease after a big partnership has been broken.

One batter will already have their eye in, while the other batter will need time to settle in — all the while they’ll need to keep the scoreboard ticking along.

So, it’s up to the established batter to keep on scoring runs — giving their partner the time to settle in without the pressure of having to score runs.

It’s a long, hard grind

A game of cricket can be long. Really long.

Some people love that (shout out to the #RealOpeners movement), but for those not entrenched in the game it can seem like a pointless, meandering game that goes on for days without a result.

But each delivery is a study in immense concentration for both bowler and batter.

In business it can seem there are long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. But keeping concentration levels up the whole time ensures you’re not caught on the hop when the action heats up.

Catches win matches

Catches can turn a match on its head — but they very rarely come at a moment of a fielder’s choosing.

Instead, they often come after hours of play where not much has happened and the energy has been sapped out of them.

Being prepared for the moment that can turn your business is about two things: training and concentration.

Cricketers practice catching for their whole lives, so when the opportunity presents itself it becomes a reflex action to pick the cherry out of the air.

They’re also switched on all the time, giving themselves the maximum amount of time to react to a ball travelling towards them at pace.

Yes, no, wait, yes, no, no, NO!

Being run out often comes down to an error in judgement from batters rather than fielding brilliance.

We’ve often seen when a batsman calls their partner through for a run, only for them to change their mind halfway through.  It very rarely ends well.

The best batters will be able to sum up a ball’s trajectory off the bat, and the position and throwing ability of a fielder likely to pick it up before committing to a decision early.

They then communicate clearly and effectively to their partner, giving them the best chance of picking up a sneaky single.

READ: Sacre beurre! The art of communicating price rises

Know when somebody’s shining

There’ll be times when one of your teammates gets on a roll, and the rest of the side’s entire mission will be to support them.

Think a tail-ender coming in when their partner is in the nervous-nineties.

Their entire task is to get down to the other end and let their partner make the runs they need to get to a century.

Supporting a team member when they’re on fire is vital to achieving great outcomes.