Thursday, November 27, 2008

India Inc. badly needs a Ganguly

For cricket fans celebrating India's triumph over Australia, the last ten years have been truly memorable ones. Ten years ago, Indian cricket was almost down for the count. Match fixing allegations were destroying the faith of fans. India travelled to Australia and was humiliated 3-0 in the test series. Back at home in early 2000, it lost badly to South Africa. Crisis was an understatement and disaster had become the ruling word. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar appeared dejected and gave up the captaincy. That was when Saurav Chandidas Ganguly took over as the captain of the Indian cricket team. Even die hard fans were not very optimistic; sure Ganguly was the God of the offside, but the Indian team had degenerated into a bunch of hopeless losers. And arguably the best team ever led by Steve Waugh was coming to India to conquer the 'final frontier'. That was the series when India discovered what a gutsy and determined leader Ganguly could be. That was also the series (Who can forget the knock of 281 by V.V.S. Laxman?) when the Indian team started believing in itself. That was also when India started playing as a 'team'. Even the most cynical Indian will salute Ganguly not just for his leadership skills, but also for the manner in which he transformed India from a bunch of whiners and losers to a confident, in your face and aggressive team that was ready to take on the world.

Fans will also know that the rise and rise of the Indian cricket team coincides with the rise and rise of India. For much of 1990s, analysts wrote off Indian companies. For most of 1990s, India Inc. went through a painful and wrenching phase of restructuring and transition. But as the 21st century dawned, a series of entrepreneurs started successfully taking on the world and global competition and winning quite a few battles; just as the Indian cricket team did under Ganguly. The dream run accelerated with Indian companies taking over foreign ones in rapid succession. There were occasional hiccups no doubt as some Indian companies stumbled; just as the Indian cricket team stumbled now and then. But there was little doubt that both the Indian cricket team and India Inc. had emerged as potential world beaters.

In Nagpur, the Indian cricket team continued the journey towards becoming world champions. But the same can no longer be said of India Inc. In the last few months, the global financial meltdown has hurt the Indian economy very badly. The bad news has gone way beyond Dalal Street to shop floors and boardrooms and investments are being frozen & plants are being run for just a few days a week. Despite a falling Rupee, Indian exports are down and exporters have started shedding jobs by the thousands. Both the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram offer platitudes that no one is buying anymore. Without a shadow of doubt, the Indian economy and India Inc. are facing a full blown crisis that could well destroy not just the growth story, but also millions of Indian dreams. What India Inc. needs badly at the moment is a leader like Saurav Ganguly who can transform threats into winning opportunities. Anyone for a new kind of ''Dada''-giri?


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