An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Why Greg Chappell is horribly wrong about Indian Culture!

Greg Chappell

Greg Chappell, the former Australian cricket captain and the ex-Indian coach made some stinging remarks against Indian culture and Indians.  As per him, Indians just cannot be leaders.

“The (Indian) culture is very different, it’s not a team culture. They lack leaders in the team because they are not trained to be leaders. From an early age, their parents make all the decisions, their schoolteachers make their decisions, their cricket coaches make the decisions,” Chappell said.

“The culture of India is such that, if you put your head above the parapet someone will shoot it. Knock your head off. So they learn to keep their head down and not take responsibility.

“The Poms (British) taught them really well to keep their head down. For if someone was deemed to be responsible, they’d get punished. So the Indians have learned to avoid responsibility. So before taking responsibility for any decisions, they prefer not to,”.

His remarks can be boiled down to following themes:

  1. The Indian culture in general and parenting in particular cannot produce leaders.
  2. If someone wants to become a leader, he is shot down.
  3. Brits had beaten us so bad during the colonial rule that we learnt to be servile.

Many Indian analysts, commentators and bloggers have a very simple take on these remarks – as bitter and bad as this may sound, what Chappell says is the Truth.

Personally, I disagree.

First of all, intriguingly, it comes at a time in history, where Indian CEOs are heading some top companies in the World.  At this time, at least 8 CEOs of the top global companies are Indians.  I am not sure, if one can say the same for either Brits or Aussies.  So, if leadership is concerned, they seem to be lacking in the business world.

Second,it is untrue that Indians cannot lead.  In US, for example, several large businesses are owned by Indians.  Not just that, Indians as an ethnic population outstrip all other ethnicities in terms of Median Household Income.

Household Income

Third, during the entire British rule of India, if the world has to look for a Global case study of Leadership, does one look at any of the Viceroys or Queens of England or a simple man from India named Gandhi?  Depends upon what your idea or definition of leadership is.  We will see later where this guy is “coming from”?

Fourth, it is folly to look India and its culture from the standpoint of last 2-300 years.  The culture is over 10,000 years old.  For most part of at least last 2000 years, Indian civilization had ~30% of world’s GDP.  It changed after the Mughal rule and British came in.

Is Greg Chappell a leader?

For someone with so much of advise on leadership, let us see his accomplishments also to, at least see, where he is coming from?

Most shameful Captaincy in history of World Cricket: If one has to look at one incident, which may go down as the most shameful display of sportsmanship in the history of Cricket, the Underarm ball by Trevor Chappell New Zealand–Australia One Day International on 1 February 1981 will probably win hands down.  Trevor was instigated to bowl underarm by our man Greg Chappell so Australia could win and avoid a tie.

2007 World Cup Cricket: He was the coach of Indian cricket team and at that time Sachin Tendulkar was India’s #1 batsman.  Arguably, he was going through a slump.  But at such times, a decently good coach tries to boost his best guy up.

What does our man do?  He publicly went out to criticize Sachin, asking him to retire – a chorus that his brother, Ian Chappell, joined into.  And if that wasn’t enough, he changed Sachin’s main batting position from where he felt most comfortable – i.e.; Opening – by bringing him down the lineup.  Sachin failed miserably.

Written off by the Chappell brothers and host of self serving Aussie “cricket experts”, Tendulkar came back in 2007-2008 Australian series by scoring the highest by any batsman from both sides!

Ganguly row: In September 2005, on his first overseas tour with India as a coach, Sourav Ganguly, the captain of Indian team scored a century and then later said publicly that he was asked by Greg Chappell to step down on the eve of the match.  Both never saw eye to eye again.  So much for his coaching leadership!

Selector of Australian Team: Greg Chappell, became selector of the Australian national side on 29 October 2010.  For next two years, this guy oversaw perhaps the WORST period of Australian cricket in past 3 decades.  They lost to everyone except the Sri Lankans.  His equation with the Australian players was so bad that he was banned from the team’s dressing room!  He was finally sacked from his post in August 2011.

Reality Test

I am all for some honest talk.  But when words – utterly racist in construction and emotion come from someone who has a history of abysmal leadership, indeed even un-Sportsman-like behavior, then one needs a bit of a reality check.

Someone who has gone down in history as the most shameful captain, and was arguably an abysmal coach for both India and Australia – any talk on “leadership qualities” for an entire nation and culture smacks of nothing but racism.

Indians as leaders

Despite many follies in the Indian behavior, I have found that Indians do lead from the front, when required.  Our cultural ethos is surely very different from the West.

The difference lies in how say an Elephant is different from a Cheetah.  The latter is aggressive, but he doesn’t have to survive and thrive as long as the former.  Evolution has taught the former that the demands of a long term existence are completely different from short term superiority.

Indian Civilization was the richest in the world for almost 1600 years out of the last 2000 years.  Yet, India remained a place where beauty of humanity could thrive.  From Yoga to Spirituality, the goal was to nurture a world (the entire Creation, actually) for many millennia.

The way Western civilization, after its ascent, has gone about its domination, short term superiority has been its only quest!  The way the entire “progress” has gone about, the vision has never been beyond 100 years at a time – at most!

These are two completely different paradigms.  The DNA and the ingredients required for both are substantively different!  It is pretty stupid to compare the two.

As for Tendulkar, barring the last few series, he has continued to perform on the field well after Greg Chappell was booted out of Indian and Australian teams as a coach.  Did I say it takes two different ingredients for Long term versus Short term?

 

 

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