31 Mar 2018

And Cricket has a lot to do with Culture!

Did you hear about the Ball Tampering? Cricket fan? This is rather long and I’d compare it to a test (pun intended) rather than a T-20 match. If you’re a culture enthusiast then I’d say this is going into at least 3 of 6 dimensions, so be prepared.

So, pull up a chair. Leave all judgement aside. And listen to what I have to say about the #BallTampering Scandal that has plagued cricket and sent cricket players and fans around in waves of shock, disbelief, acceptance and (now) forgiveness.

I am part of this wave not as a cricket person but because, in this event, I see striations of a country culture and generation playing out – at possibly their worst.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to say what I said yesterday when I talked about this. If you’ve read it already just scroll down to after the picture of the ball! (Yeah!)

(Yesterday’s Post)

Disclaimer Alert: I am not a cricket fan. So before all you seasoned followers of the game start, I’d like to own up to that. Not a cricket fan. Not a cricket player. Not an expert.

Phew! Now that that’s done, I’d like to say two things that will make the next few paras make sense

  1. I do not live under a rock. Which means I do know what’s happening in my immediate universe. And I do get to know stuff like Trump’s latest tweet, the death of the last white rhino and a ball tampering incident that came to light.
  2. If I did slink back to under the said rock there are people who will discuss this with me or tell me about it or share articles, tweets, links and so on, in the vain hope that I venture
    out and know what is happening in my immediate universe. Which then takes me back to Point 1.

In this case, it was friend NB who decided that I needed to take heed of a situation that could well have a cultural slant to it. Some tweets, links and articles later, I was hooked.

What’s stumped me the most…

So here I am. I am intrigued. I am appalled. I am somewhat shocked and shaken. I am watching the world watching a whole balltampering fiasco coming to light. And in bits it’s about a game but if you step back and look at the larger picture it’s about winning and if you take a 30,000 view, it’s not about a game or winning.

And while all the cricket fans are talking about sandpaper and vaseline and blades and earlier episodes of ball tampering, all I can think of is that there’s something much deeper here. Much that is beyond the pitch and the stadium. Beyond the willow and the bales. Beyond the Aussies and the South Africans. What’s stumped me the most is that is more about a culture and a generation.

Yes! It IS about a culture and a generation

There’s something in our DNA that makes us behave in a certain manner. Now no culture ever, ever condones, encourages or even talks about dishonesty aka ball tampering. But there is a proclivity to certain things that could have led to this kind of behaviour. You’ll ask what it is. And I will tell you – it’s based in the dimensions of culture and I want to take a deeper look at it.

So maybe it’s time for an action replay

And that’s what I wish to do. Examine this slowly. Create a commentary on this cricket scandal on what really went wrong. When. How. Where. Because there are some things that lie beyond the dressing rooms of the hallowed cricket teams – they lie in a culture they were born it. And you ask,

What’s culture got to do with cricket?!

A lot. So, let’s get started.

The 6 Dimensions of Culture

Dutch culturologist, Geert Hofstede propounded 6 dimensions of culture. Briefly defined as  “the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behaviour, using a structure derived from factor analysis.*

Very simply put, the way a country scores on each of the 6 dimensions is largely how the population of that country will behave on those parameters. Hofstede’s Dimension Scores are not absolute, they are comparative. And for the purposes of this post I’m putting in a brief description of each of the dimensions. What’s interesting to note is that each country has values on these dimensions and that in a way describes (albeit in a generalized manner) the leaning in that dimension of the country and therefore predictably the behavior that people of that country exhibit. (Just take a the infographic below for ease)

6 Dimensions of Culture

The WIKI Link of Cultural Dimensions (In detail below)

Now let’s do a comparative score

Cross Cultural Insights https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/

For better understanding, I’ve taken four countries in to this, largely because these are comparative scores. If you look at just the Individualism (90), Masculinity (61) and Indulgence (71) scores for Australia, you’ll see they are on the higher side. This, in itself, does not condone the behaviour concerned. It just suggests a high degree of emphasis on achievement, winning, status, lack of restraint and a gratification of one’s own needs, among other things. (This probably needs a separate post by itself!)

But these guys had something else that went against them

Take a look at these cricket heroes. David Warner (b.1986) is 31, Cameron Bancroft (b. 1992) is 25, and Steve Smith (b. 1989) is 29. According to Simon Sinek (Author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last) they are part of the Millennial Generation- a generation that’s born between 1984 and after.

If you’ve heard Simon Sinek talking about the millennial generation  a lot more falls in place. While the talk is long, he starts by talking about the sense of ‘entitlement’. The very same word used by Mickey Arthur in his piece.

Here’s one of Simon Sinek’s most viewed talks in which he talks about the sense of ‘entitlement’ that the generation is born with and brings to the workplace. Put that together with a sensitive article written by Mickey Arthur, ‘The Truth about Aussie Cricket Culture’ in Player’s Voice – the one that was sent to me in a tweet. Thanks NB.

Thanks for the tweet @The_First_Ray

His opening para says:

Unfortunately, it was always going to end like this.

Despite generational change, independent reviews and too many behavioural spotfires to list, Cricket Australia and the national team had demonstrated no real willingness or desire to improve the culture within their organisation from season to season.

That could lead to only one conclusion.

An explosion.

A deterioration of standards that would culminate in an incident so bad, so ugly, that it would shame the leaders of the organisation into taking drastic action to change the culture, or risk alienating fans, sponsors, broadcasters and other stakeholders.

Was this a disaster waiting to happen? In Cricket?

Look at this combination of cultural attributes with a generational attitude! It’s possible that this was a disaster waiting to happen. As my disclaimer says I am neither a cricket fan nor an expert and yet the way the incidents have played out in the last few days just seems to validate these two theories. And the fact that, if not heeded, it is probably going to happen oftener than expected.

Mickey Arthur’s article seems to underscore this in greater detail.

I have been bitterly disappointed watching the Australian cricket team over the last few years. The behaviour has been boorish and arrogant. The way they’ve gone about their business hasn’t been good, and it hasn’t been good for a while.

He then goes on to say about “Homework-gate”

To me, the episode was a microcosm of a problem that remains with the Australian team to this day: the sense of entitlement among the players.

In much of Mickey Arthur’s article he talks about culture. And as this becomes even more talked about more such incidents come to light, to underscore the cultural aspects of the scandal. Here’s a new one that’s come into my periphery of vision. Thanks @ninjabharucha. It seems this is the path Australia wants to take! So what can be done? And what needs to be done? If you read the last bit about Matt Lodge, it’s no longer about cricket.

What can be done now?

On my part, it’s heartening to note that in all the press conferences (why though?) the three have come out honestly remorseful for their actions, deeply regretting the shame they have brought to the country, to the game and last but not the least to their families. In that itself there seems to be hopefully a turnaround. And I see the outpouring of support, understanding and forgiveness from all over the world.

What needs to be done now is: to see, acknowledge and understand the role that national  culture can play in any interaction between people and between countries.

A global world needs a cross culture orientation

Cricket is as much an international sport as it is an international business. Teams play not just against countries but with players from other countries. And that’s where three things seem to be now almost mandatory

  1. A deeper understanding of the dimensions of culture
  2. A reflection of your own country culture scores and your personal score
  3. An understanding of the other countries’ culture and how to meet them halfway.

And finally, your pitch is the middle ground!

You need to come halfway to meet the other team. Or the other country. On a pitch on which you do your best, while acknowledging the differences and building on the similarities.

When that happens, the sport remains a sport, each country retains its national character and pride and (may be cliched to say but) everyone wins!

Would be great to know what you think – is this a problem with Cricket or Culture? Do comment on this post and let’s continue this conversation. And do share!

*The WIKI Link of Cultural Dimensions

  • Power distance index (PDI): The power distance index is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally
  • Individualism vs. collectivism (IDV): This index explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.” Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only relates an individual to his/her immediate family. They emphasize the “I” versus the “we.” Its counterpart, collectivism, describes a society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and others into in-groups. These in-groups are laced with undoubted loyalty and support each other when a conflict arises with another in-group.[6][7]
  • Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI): The uncertainty avoidance index is defined as “a society’s tolerance for ambiguity,” in which people embrace or avert an event of something unexpected, unknown, or away from the status quo. Societies that score a high degree in this index opt for stiff codes of behavior, guidelines, laws, and generally rely on absolute truth, or the belief that one lone truth dictates everything and people know what it is. A lower degree in this index shows more acceptance of differing thoughts or ideas. Society tends to impose fewer regulations, ambiguity is more accustomed to, and the environment is more free-flowing.[6][7]
  • Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS): In this dimension, masculinity is defined as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Its counterpart represents “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.
  • Long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation (LTO): This dimension associates the connection of the past with the current and future actions/challenges. A lower degree of this index (short-term) indicates that traditions are honored and kept, while steadfastness is valued. Societies with a high degree in this index (long-term) views adaptation and circumstantial, pragmatic problem-solving as a necessity. A poor country that is short-term oriented usually has little to no economic development, while long-term oriented countries continue to develop to a point.[6][7]
  • Indulgence vs. restraint (IND): This dimension is essentially a measure of happiness; whether or not simple joys are fulfilled. Indulgence is defined as “a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun.” Its counterpart is defined as “a society that controls gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.” Indulgent societies believe themselves to be in control of their own life and emotions; restrained societies believe other factors dictate their life and emotions.[6][7]

4 thoughts on “And Cricket has a lot to do with Culture!”

  1. This is simply brilliant Vaishakhi. And made me think about the fact that political leadership in countries- who people choose / why /when – could draw a close parallel.
    Fantastic read.

    1. Thanks Renuka! You can view almost everything through the culture lens once you start! And it’s quite surprising people don’t! Do let’s continue the conversation!

  2. Vaishakhi, this is another great post from you.
    When the gentlemen of leisure invented the gentleman’s game, they must have been struck by the fact that cricket turned out to be a mirror of culture, ethos etc. But this is mostly so of any sport.
    An idiom like ‘It’s not cricket’, broadly means that a certain something is not fair or honourable, that it’s dishonest or immoral. Or an expression like unsportsmanlike conduct means the same.
    What you are pointing to is that cricket, beyond being the nitty-gritty of the game itself, is a metaphor for life. And that in the game of life, you have to play on a given pitch, against conditions like the weather, circumstances, (fate?!), as much as you have to play against the opposition. Then when players see how inefficiently and immorally the systems are run everywhere, subconsciously they must see little point in working hard and honestly.
    Then you have Chanakya’s fanboys, who exclaim all is fair in love and war, and then you have the losers who lament the apparent unfairness of life.
    Then you have the fanboys of Innocence who claim that love conquers all.
    To which I say that that may or may not be true, but bad upbringing certainly cheats everyone of victory.

    1. How well you put it Amit! Thanks for the interpretation and this does give new meaning to cricket as the ‘gentleman’s game’. And yes it is reflecting culture as it is in the world today – a mix of both good and bad!

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