Guts and Glory: Of Narendra Modi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and their leadership

Guts and Glory: Of Narendra Modi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and their leadership

Guts and Glory: Of Narendra Modi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and their leadership

Du Plessis scored 86, Uthappa and Moeen scored quick 30+ cameos, Shardul Thakur took three wickets, Jadeja and Hazlewood took two; yet, credit for the IPL 2021 win goes to Dhoni.

This is roughly what a post on social media looked like.

Vaccines were created by scientists, manufacturing companies risked their capital to produce it, healthcare staff across the country braved troubling conditions to administer it; yet, Modi takes the credit for India’s impressive vaccination drive.

This pretty much sums up the reactions of Modi’s rivals.

In both instances, what cynics see is the tangible moment of glory – the final presentation of an award or a rewarding pictorial. And, since both are captains of their respective teams, both get photographed holding the laurels.

Yet, in both instances, what cynics don’t see is the assiduous ‘boring’ work done prior thereto.

Dhoni, with inputs from the franchise coach and others, selected these players. By picking them, Dhoni wasn’t doing them a personal favour. He was indicating to them that he believes in their potential and their capabilities and that belief, in turn, inspired them to give their all – as countless players of Dhoni’s teams have testified.

With the same players – some of them were wanted by no other franchise for they were too old, some of them didn’t perform as well when playing for other franchises – Dhoni has time and again scripted remarkable performances.

Since his days as Gujarat Chief Minister, Modi repeatedly said that, with the same laws, same rules, same officers, same people, same files, he has shown things can happen. Since the early stages of the unprecedentedly daunting Covid-19 pandemic, he backed India’s indigenous vaccine production, giving all support that could be given.

Dhoni once said he wanted a team that can stand before an advancing truck. What he was perhaps getting at is needing a team that did not obsess over their own individual records and who held no fear of failure. By personally exhibiting these two aspects – by facing victory and defeat equally – he led Team India to become a world-beating team.

Modi may not have used the same advancing truck analogy, but he, too, prefers a team that displays no fear of failure nor abuses its position for personal glory.

Indeed, a nuance must be pointed out here. Unlike cricket in which selection decisions are made by a board, Modi government is formed out of the legislature which, in turn, requires the voters of the country to select it. This requires a proactive publicity drive – on social media, on hoardings and so on. In that regard, the use of faces of Modi and other popular leaders like Yogi Adityanath on pictorials and hoardings is strategic – they are the ‘faces’ of electoral campaigns every five years.

Yet, the fact that both make it a point to repeatedly attribute achievements to their respective teams is conveniently overlooked – a captain is as good as his team, a country is as good as every one of its 130+ crore citizens – jan abhiyan.

This isn’t to say there aren’t sycophants around both. Every time when a Cabinet expansion or reshuffle is around the corner, increased sycophancy ensues. That, however, seems to have no effect whatsoever as decisions are made in a seemingly cold, but elaborately calculated manner. If horses don’t fit the courses, they’re asked to rest.

Back in 2012, Dhoni famously demanded that certain senior stalwarts who no longer fit the shorter format of the game be expelled from the team. The sheer risk behind decisions like these cannot be underestimated. And the person who faces the blame if things go wrong is the leader.

Yet, Team India went on to win tournaments even after that. Those retained within the Modi cabinet as well as fresh faces continue to govern with dynamism, bringing India laurels and global recognition.

And, then, there is decision-making on the field, in real-time. Umpteen times, Dhoni’s decisions have baffled experts and analysts. The final over was given to Joginder Sharma in 2007, promoting himself up the order in 2011 and so on. Indeed, such decisions worked in his favour and India created history. Equally, however, these decisions could have backfired, leading to embarrassment.

Modi, too, made several audacious decisions – demonetization, surgical strikes and Balakot airstrikes, to name a few. These could have gone horribly wrong.

What’s common in both these leaders is, first and foremost, the courage to take the blame if things go wrong. Secondly, while one may disagree with these decisions, to think that these are rash decisions is a folly. Both Modi and Dhoni have the ability to get a total grip on themselves in order to think through the preparedness in real-time.

From their countless media statements, the thought process seems surprisingly simple. When the magnitude of the impacts of these decisions can be taken out of the equation – when the weight of these decisions cannot overwhelm you – one can think through them in an impartial, objective way.

If one finds himself on the top of a thin rocky walkway 8,000 feet high, one can either get overwhelmed by how deep the valley underneath is (and how fatal the fall will be), or back one’s stabilizing skills and focus on one step at a time – the process one has trained for.

That said, it inevitably happens that, when India wins or achieves something, a majority of Indians are happy and immediately give credit to Modi and Dhoni respectively. When, on the other hand, India loses, a majority of Indians, while disappointed, don’t get much angry at the two.

Why? Let’s answer that with a question.

Why has it been overlooked that they’ve consistently shown that they put their all – one-hundred percent – behind each effort? Why is it hard to see that it is this indefatigable drive which results in a situation where admiration for them is outcome-neutral?

Both aren’t immune from criticism, but both Modi and Dhoni are an emotion to countless people. There must be a reason.

There are reasons. Easily visible reasons.

The author is an immigration lawyer who writes on current affairs, law and politics. Views expressed are personal