The Kolkata Knoght Riders (KKR) on Saturday went right up to the top of the points table in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). It was their third win in a row and given the side's balance, the defending champions look favourites to finish the league stage among the top two teams in the tournament, which gives them the advantage of trying twice to make the finals.
But the story of the KKR, which is the only team other than the Chennai Super Kings to win the crown twice (but with a 100% record in the finals while the CSK have 50% record), was not the same always. Till 2011, KKR were the only team that failed to make a single semifinals (in 2011, they had made the last four but lost in the eliminator).
How did the KKR's fortunes changed for the better?
No son of the soil in team? So what?
Many Bengali cricket fans still say that the KKR's success isn't theirs because there are no local players in that team. Only the word ‘Kolkata' doesn't make the KKR the Bengalis' pride.
Not sentiment but performance is what needed
The question to them is: Do we attach more to the sentimental values of ‘son of the soil' or success on the ground? If Bengal produces mediocre players who can never win it for the team, is it wise to continue with them and end up disappointed? Moreover, in professional sports, why would the investors agree to carry the baggage of ordinary players year after year if they can't deliver?
Sourav Ganguly was an ordinary captain of KKR because he had mediocre local players in his team
The KKR had started the IPL with local players under the leadership of Bengal's icon Sourav Ganguly. The first year was a dull affair with the team failing to make the semi-finals.
In 2009, when the tournament was shifted to South Africa and there was a serious debate over the captaincy issue and Brendon McCullum led the KKR, causing much resentment among Ganguly's fans, only to finish last in the tournament. The left-hander returned to the helm in 2010 but the Knights' fortunes didn't change. They finished sixth in the table.
A complete change was effected in 2011 and the KKR began to turn around
It was enough for the management and the team underwent a change in 2011 and since then, the KKR's form was never the same. It finished fourth among 10 teams in 2011, lifted the trophy in 2012 by beating the formidable Chennai Super Kings in their den and in 2014 when they beat the Kings XI Punjab in a thriller. The team, however, failed to make the semifinals in 2013.
But, overall, the KKR have proved that the 'son of the soil' theory doesn't serve the best and exposure is what needed to raise the bar. This is something Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of Bengal who celebrates each time the KKR lift the trophy, can learn from the cricket team's feat.
Bengal has stagnated just like the previous KKR teams because it has shut itself in
Bengal has stagnated today because it refuses to open its mind to the outside world. It is not just about the Left or the Trinamool Congress but the Bengalis in general who are never ready to have a mind flexible enough to experiment something new.
Decades of Left rule formalised the stagnation: Can Mamata break this?
Decades of rule by a regimented party have formalised this stagnation, which is often mixed up with stability. Bengal is by no means stable and is just sitting on an atom bomb, be it in terms of economy or the socio-political condition.
Can Banerjee take a leaf out of the book of the KKR, which represents her state capital in an all-India competition? Here are three major points that she can learn as the chief administrator of Bengal on how to take the state forward:
Pick the best in the business and not encourage narrow-minded preferences
Banerjee should understand that the best in the business always serve the business the best, no matter from where they belong. Just like a bunch of good players from other states and abroad have helped the KKR emerge as a competitive outfit, Banerjee should also import the best resources to realise her dream of a better Bengal, in whatever fields.
Will Banerjee discuss these points with KKR co-owner Shah Rukh Khan?
Instead of asking below-par party loyalists to take charge of key responsibilities that they can never fulfil, why doesn't Banerjee hire the best consultants to back her projects to make Bengal a progressive state?
There should not be any preference when it comes to serving Bengal's interest, just as the KKR management has done, even risking facing the ire of the die-hard fans of the former Indian cricketer by dropping him.
The example she had set by forming a panel for the improvement of the former Presidency College was a positive one. Though the purpose was ultimately dwarfed by political considerations but Banerjee can follow the same model in other fields also.
Not to depend too much on individuals
In Bengal, the legacy of complete control by the ruling establishment (as it was during the Left) has made the chief minister the ultimate decider of the state's fate. It is not a healthy sign. The KKR, too, were overwhelmed by Ganguly's iconic stature and that ultimately did not help the team's cause.
Today, the KKR succeed because it plays more like a team and not just dependent on a few players. Skipper Gautam Gambhir has led from the front and yet the team is not only dependent on his form or image. This is something Banerjee should try to force in her state's administration also. The government should only facilitate the process and not place itself on the way of progress. That only delays and disrupts the momentum.
Confidence is one thing that has kept the KKR moving forward. Is Banerjee equally confident as an administrator? Can she care less for minorities and focus on development for all, irrespective of 'man-made' differences?
During Ganguly's days, the KKR were too-much dependent on Ganguly, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum and it was mostly a formality in the batting once these three departed. Today, the KKR can win it from any position as the team bat deep down and have flexibility in the bowling department.
Banerjee will do her state a big favour if she focuses on an administration that caters to all. Once such a legacy is established, it will change Bengal's stagnant culture for the better.
Will Banerjee meet her state's brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, who is also one of the co-owners of the KKR, to discuss these points?