Cricket has always been one of my favourite sports ever since my teenage, both watching and playing it. Back in the day, test matches and one-day internationals (ODIs) were the most common in Zimbabwe. Twenty-20 (T20s) and T20Is are now quite popular and the most fun too. I can understand why some people do not like cricket or find it complex. The truth is cricket has so many variables and dynamics that you have to grasp. Regardless, with patience and interest, you can learn everything. For me, I find that multivariate nature to be why cricket is such an exciting sport. Today I thought we should discuss some business lessons from cricket.

Good Leadership Is Central To Effective Business Strategy Formulation

Cricket is one of those sports where the team captain plays a crucial role. They make decisions regarding several variables that determine victory or loss. For example, deciding whether to bat first after winning the toss is important and usually involves understanding the pitch conditions. The line-up or order of the batsmen is also a huge decision to be made. Who gets to bowl and who gets to play in a particular match are all crucial decisions.

Most of these decisions are the captain’s call. Even in cases like when there is rain, the captain has a big role in contesting or agreeing to continue playing. The captain calls so many shots that when a team loses, he is usually the one who gets blamed the most. The same goes for business; you need to make the right decisions proactively as a business owner. Make the right calls, step in, and always take responsibility. Good leadership is about inculcating virtuous attributes within the team.

Cricket, especially T20s and T20Is, is characterised by lots of pressure. When batting, you have to score as many runs as possible and ensure you do not concede wickets. When bowling, you have to take as many wickets as possible, making it difficult for the opponent to score runs. Either of these has to be done with roughly 120 (or fewer) balls (or deliveries). This calls upon a team to strike a delicate balance between calmness and calculated aggression. The captain is instrumental in cultivating that in his team. It is no different in business as well.

Business Success Heavily Depends On A Well-Blended Team

Cricket is interesting in that every team player ought to bring something to the table. Unlike other sporting disciplines, a team member slacking may not affect much. A bowler can be good, but the whole team suffers if the fielders are not. If the top-order batsmen (i.e. the ones who bat first) perform poorly, it places pressure on the others. There is always a constant need for communication, especially in fielding. For instance, poor communication can lead to the opponent scoring more runs.

When someone is bowling, the others have to note loopholes the bowler can use to outsmart the batsmen. When batting, the batsmen have to communicate seamlessly to, e.g. avoid getting unnecessarily run out. These are some of the many examples to show how working as a team is important. Every team player needs to understand their role and bring all they have got to the table whenever they play. I cannot underscore enough the importance of communication.

I like what Sikandar Raza, the Zimbabwe cricket team’s star player, once said: “If your team needs come before your personal needs, you will find your needs being looked after anyway. If you are constantly thinking about what my team needs of me and you are constantly trying to achieve that, you will be fine”. The most striking part is when he said, “So for me, I buy into a team plan, and what needs to be done for my team to win the game. And if that happens to be me on that day, then so be it”.

That is exactly what it takes to be successful in business or anything. Perfect your craft and understand your individual role(s). Then bring it all to the table and operate efficiently along with others in the team. Individualism or seeking to outshine a colleague is counterproductive.

Everything You Do In Business Must Be Data-Driven

Being data-driven refers to being determined by or dependent on the collection or analysis of data. If you ever watch or have watched a cricket match, you get to appreciate how data is a huge part of cricket. I guess that is one of the reasons why some people find cricket to be complex. As a spectator, you have to understand several data points to get the flow of a game. In fact, big data and analytics are now an integral part of cricket. As a data analyst, I am excited about cricket because I would get to work with tonnes of data.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) uses two digital tools: SAP HANA Cloud Platform and SAP Lumira (a software application). They use them to do data analytics – updates are made every 20 seconds. When teams are playing, their strategies are always informed by data. Simple example: let us say a team is chasing 180 runs in 20 overs. They know this means they have to aim for an average run rate of 9 runs per over (RPO). This run rate is updated in real-time as the game progresses. At any given point, the batting team will know whether they should keep it steady or start taking aggressive shots. In cricket, no strategic decision is made in a vacuum; data always inform it. This is a lesson for anyone in business – be data-driven!

I only shared with you 3 practical business lessons from cricket, but there are countless more. I encourage you to get to watch cricket and follow it closely. I can assure you that you will be inspired a great deal by drawing invaluable insights.