Thursday, April 05, 2007

Clash of Cultures - Greg Chappell Quits

Today most Indian Newspapers carried the headline "Chappell Quits as Coach". While this was not a surprise for most Indians, there is a very good lesson to learn for expats who are working and living in India.

Greg Chappell was appointed as coach of Indian Cricket team in 2005. Since then he has been through one big roller-coaster ride. As a coach he took Indian cricket to new heights - a world record of 17 wins in a row - while chasing, first ever test series win in West Indies, but he also had his share of lows - a disastrous tour of South Africa, and an early exit from the world cup 2007.

Greg Chappell, an Australian was appointed as coach of Indian team with a certain expectations in mind - mainly to infuse the Australian sense of professionalism into India cricket. Greg Chappell was ideal for this job. He has an excellent record as Australian captian and is known to be tough coach. Greg Chappell has all the qualities of a good coach and he had demonstrated success with Indian team - but in the end he failed to understand the Indian culture and that caused his downfall.

Indian culture is vastly different than the Australian culture. Greg Chappell tried to enforce the Australian norms on performance on Indian team - which was very much resented by the team members and the public. To begin with, Greg asked Ganguly to take a break - and use the time to regain his form. The Indian Public and Ganguly reacted to this suggestion as unwanted interference by the coach. Public protested at Greg Chappell when he visited Kolkata - and the decision to drop Ganguly did not go well with a section of cricket adminstrators and public. ( though the decision to drop Ganguly was eventually proved right, Indian public still does not appreciate it)

After the defeat in cricket worldcup, the actions of the coach came under severe public review - and Greg's comments on Senior members of the team did not help either. In the end, Greg Chappell had to resign.

Admist all this, there are a number of lessons for other expats working in India. Some of these lessons can be summarised as:

  1. Power & position/status is more important than performance.
    Indians tend to respect power/position/status of a person more than his current performance. But to get that position, one must have displayed great performance in the past.
  2. Continious back-to-back failures will not be tolerated for long.
    Indian tend to forget failures only when it is followed up with a big success. Continious failures will not be tolerated - this applies universally to all Indians and foreigners. One can also say that Indians can tolerate a few failures - but one must show success. Indians do not tend to discriminate between natives and foreigners when it comes to rewarding/punishing success or failures.
  3. Do not criticise others in Public
    This aspect of culture can be seen throughout the history. Chanakya has documented this feature as a key political techique in his book: "Arthashastra". One must take care not to criticise others in public - Indians will tolerate criticism if it is done in private. But any form of public criticism will be met with a brutal backlash.
  4. Indians aspire to be world leaders and will not tolerate any discrimination
    People from US & Europe in particular tend to think of India and Indians as third world country and as a backward nation. Many times this thinking is reflected in their actions and words. I recall once an European said to me "I will be visiting your wretched nation in April". Making such statements will be meet with deep resentment - and the person who made such a statement will be "blacklisted".
    As a rule of thumb - never criticise India or anything related to India when speaking to an Indian - even if it were to be meant as a joke.
  5. Shower praises when it is deserved
    Indians tend to build good relationship with people who praise them. So when a person has done a good job reward it with a praise.

Greg Chappell was an excellent coach, but he missed reading the finer points on Indian culture and that caused his downfall. In the end, It is just another story of an highly accomplished expat failing in a foreign location.