Fresh and in bloom

It is a day before the IPL cricket semi-final match between the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I have just spoken to my brother, Ray on Skype. He is the coach of the Royal Challengers.

It was 22h30 Mumbai time when I called him. As I spoke to him, I became aware of the contrasting positions that we found ourselves in. While we were both out of South Africa, I was visiting family and had time for contemplation, while he was in the middle of an intense period of work. I was in Richmond, Virginia where nobody knows about or is interested in cricket; he was in Mumbai, India where everyone is fanatical about the game. I was planning to go and watch my first major league baseball match, he was thinking of his strategies for the important, ‘winner takes all’, one-off match that semi-finals are renowned for.

I asked him what some of his strategies were for the semi-final match. He said he was ‘brain dead’ and had yet to formulate a plan of action for this match. We both laughed, yet his comment highlighted the pressures that he has had to endure as a coach of an IPL team. There are constant demands that do not allow much time for reflection. And to cap it all, he has had to deal with the effects of the bomb blast that occurred an hour before the start of his team’s last match. Given these intense pressures, he found it difficult to get the necessary time and space to think about the upcoming match.

The IPL competition is a very demanding competition and can be likened to an ultra marathon. It is a war of attrition. As I spoke to him, I got an image of running my first Comrades ultra marathon. One starts the 90Km run with a bounce in one’s step, all fresh and ready to go. But as the process unfolds, the race starts taking its toll on the runners. Blisters, cramps, muscle fatigue, mental doubts, self-perpetuating questions regarding one’s sanity of even thinking of doing such a race never mind now having to endure it, plague the runner as each one moves closer and closer to the destination. Nine times winner, Bruce Fordyce always had the strategy of being cautious and conservative in the first half of the race so that he still felt fresh, with necessary reserves, as he made his way to the winning line during the last stages of this taxing race.

This year, the annual cherry blossom festival in Washington, ran from the 27 March to the 11 April, 2010. We visited Washington on Saturday 10 April, all excited to see the trees in bloom. But unfortunately, most of the blossoms had fallen. We were too late. Or maybe nature was too early? (Just a joke!). However, we did manage to see about 10 or so trees still in full bloom, in beautiful pink. I shared this with Ray and stated that the team that was still in bloom would win the semi-final. This resonated with him and I noticed how his tiredness seemed to dissipate.

Last of the cherry blossoms in Washington, 10 April 2010

The challenge for Ray in the build-up to the semi-final will be to add just enough fresh information into preparing his team, so that the players can blossom on the field. At this stage of the competition the players are physically and mentally exhausted, so adding too much information or going through an in-depth, time-consuming team talk will be counter productive and will tire the players further.

While I am looking forward to a totally new experience of watching a major league baseball match unfold tonight (once in a life time); Ray’s Bangalore team needs to go through another arduous process of preparation once again (more of the same). If the Royal Challengers can approach this preparation feeling fresh and enter this match in bloom they will advance into the finals and have the opportunity to harvest the fruits of the IPL competition. Good luck Ray with your preparations – you are having another successful IPL campaign.

I will post this article just before the start of the match.

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