Pressure tactics

Avantika Sinha
Sep 04, 2012

On the brink of elimination in front of their demanding home fans, India fought back determinedly to win the 2011 cricket world cup by defeating all the other former world champions in back to back matches – the West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are, no doubt, many factors that contributed to this exceptional achievement but arguably the biggest was Team India’s response to pressure situations.

Yuvraj Singh, under huge pressure for his place in the team at the beginning of the tournament ended as the player of the tournament. Zaheer Khan, who went for 28 runs in his first three overs in the 2003 final had learned to handle his nerves on big occasions, starting the 2011 final with three maidens and following with a wicket in his next over. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, criticized heavily before the match for his team selection decisions and out of form with the bat, promoted himself up the order in the final match sensing that it was the right decision tactically but also knowing that if he failed the entire nation would blame him for the loss. He ended up with a match winning 91, hitting the world cup winning runs with a swashbuckling six.

However most people react to pressure by reverting to a habitual inflexible default rather than responding to the requirements of the situation at hand. In the semi final for example, Younis Khan reverted to ultra defensiveness despite a mounting required run rate while Afridi launched a predictably undifferentiated attack on the bowling instead of waiting for the right balls to hit. In the corporate world, when things aren’t going our way each of us respond in our own idiosyncratic style; some of us get aggressive and controlling, some throw tantrums, some sulk and disengage while yet others simply cave in meekly.

The ability to handle pressure is, as Team India has shown over the last four years, a learnable skill but it requires self awareness, a commitment to personal growth and the discipline to practice new behaviours. The following questions may be useful if this is a skill you would like to develop:

> What sort of situations do you usually experience pressure in?
> What is your default reaction to pressure? What are the consequences?
> What do you think would be a more effective response?
> What is the next situation where you are likely to face this pressure?

Use this as an opportunity to practice your new response. And then…like the Indian team….practice till perfect.