2019 Aug 28
The cricketing community witnessed Ben Stokes script a miraculous fight back that was nothing short of surreal. Being in awe of this feat made me wonder how he managed to accomplish this. Surely, to follow the world cup final with this must mean that it wasn’t just throwing caution to the wind and having God on his side. The more I watched highlights of the innings and listened to him speak, the following principles became evident which can be applied on many fronts, especially from a professional perspective:
Lesson 01: Mindset of Change
When Stokes came to the crease he batted completely out of character as that is what the team and the situation demanded. He ended the day getting only 2 runs from 50 deliveries. From a cricketing perspective for someone who is naturally an accumulator to be more aggressive is much easier than for a natural stroke maker like Stokes to do what he did. He is one of the most sort after IPL picks, who demonstrated his power hitting in the recently concluded world cup, not to mention coming off the confidence from a hundred in the previous game. Hence making this switch was admirable.
Lesson 02: Being Threat Conscious and Mitigating Same for Sustainable Results
He was hit flush on the head at over 90mph, countless times swing and seam beat the bat not to mention Lyon repeatedly attempting to get the outside edge or wrap him on the pads with guide and spin from the rough. In these times he turned to his solid defense, trusted his technique and preparation, didn’t chase balls outside the stump, didn’t play at what wasn’t necessary, and made the bowlers make the mistake. He seized any opportunity for a rare boundary or a single and continued knowing what he had to do. After batting for over 100 deliveries he had scored only 20 runs. He was never tempted for that release shot under pressure. His strike rate at the start was 4, then gradually improved to double digits and he ended the innings on 61.6 which was the highest in the whole batting line up.
Lesson 03: Seizing the Moment
When the new ball was taken and it wasn’t doing much, along with Bairstow he played a few shots and increased the overall run rate from the 80th to the 90th overs to nearly 6 runs an over shifting the pressure back to the Aussies after they had lost Joe Root. Together with Bairstow he had changed the whole tempo of the game which gave the crowd and the dressing room the hope that a win was still possible. Lunch was taken with the game in the balance and England as slight favorites with a win percentage projector indicating 52% towards England.
Lesson 4: Facing Adversity & Having Faith
Soon after the break, Bairstow was dismissed, he was involved in a bad mix-up which sent Butler back run out, Woakes the only recognized batsman came and went and England were staring down the barrel. Still the face of Stokes showed belief and calmness, he batted at a composed pace and strategically encouraged Archer to take on some risks in the quest of scoring some runs and transferring pressure which he believed was the best course of action. However, even that backfired as Archer was dismissed after a couple of boundaries and Broad came and went. Yet Stokes believed. From an organizations point of view we love to take statistically informed decisions, if someone told us the success rate was 4% (chasing such a target) and you had about 1% chance of winning given you were all out for under 100 in the first attempt given the conditions, most business leaders would have not even approved to attempt the venture. However, Stokes believed and batted on.
Lesson 5: Taking Ownership & Being Focused on the Final Goal
With over 70 to get and only the last man to support him against the number one ranked fast bowler and possibly the best finger spinner Australia has ever produced, Stokes believed he could carry the hope of the nation purely on his shoulders. He believed he could reach the target on his own with some lusty blows. He drew on his experience of the recently concluded world cup, IPL etc. farming the strike and not exposing Leach to more than a couple of deliveries each over. He strategized, visualized and executed. He hit boundary after boundary and when he reached his personal milestone, he raised his hand and silenced the crowd, indicating that the job was not done. The ashes were at risk, yhe history of England chasing, the history of all test cricket was against him, yet Stokes believed, he stood between the impossible and the possible, the improbable and the probable, took complete responsibility and executed fearlessly.
Lesson 06: Never Give Up, History Doesn’t Define You
My mind goes back to when Carlos Brathwaite stole victory from the jaws of defeat hitting Stokes for 4 sixes in the final of the t20 world cup. Such a moment would have been crushing for many individuals. It would be easy to blame yourself and live in that regret of what might have been and find a million ways to tell yourself that you are responsible for the entire countries heartache. Right now that memory must feel a million years away as he bounced back, not only with a world cup winning performance but keeping the hopes of retrieving the ashes alive with probably two of the best innings an individual could play given the pressure, given the stakes at hand. Hence, today #rememberthename is not against him but for him. Moreover, in 2017 he was faced with charges of assault at a night club incident and left out of the squad on disciplinary grounds. Yet he resolved to come back strong and fought his way back to the World Cup squad and took his team to victory. On both counts he has proved that he can rise above challenges on and off the field in a triumphant fashion.
Lesson 07: Humility and Understanding Areas for Improvement
Speaking to the media, there was no pride, arrogance or reveling the moment. He spoke on knowing what he had to do and being thankful for being able to do so. He wanted to enjoy the feeling when it soaked in but he was more focused on ensuring Australia do not win one more game in the next two, so that the bigger goal of regaining the ashes could be achieved. He spoke of the mix up with Leach that nearly cost the game, the sweep he played under pressure that fortunately the umpire didn’t give out. Even at the end of such a feat he understood he could have controlled certain moments better and reacted better. This shows great maturity and the stature of the individual.
Not only did Benjamin Stokes play arguably the best innings of all time, he inspired a nation and countless supporters across the world. He rejuvenated the game of test cricket which is termed ‘boring’ and ‘long’ and gave the test championship a much needed lift. He reinvented himself as a player and positioned himself to leap towards greatness in the years to come. Hence, this is a humble effort to reflect on this feat and derive some learning which could be applied by anyone in any setting, corporate or otherwise.