The Gentleman’s Game

Dilip Doshi, former Indian cricketer, was invited to the weekly meeting last Tuesday, entrusted to share his thoughts on a very topical issue: Ethics. Although the subject has been well dissected by some of the greatest philosophers, Doshi’s perspective was rather refreshing. His sporting and business career inspired some very interesting parallels between sportsmanship and ethical business practices.

He began by asking us, “What drives us to do whatever we do?” Most everyone agreed to his answer: “We all want to be successful, which makes us think about the route that we must take to be successful.” But here’s where he feels that many fall for the mistaken assumption that “the self-esteem and recognition comes from the wealth that they accumulate.”

To extend his point of view, he drew upon the first parallel of the afternoon: “How many of you have heard about the adage ‘it’s not cricket’?” For those who haven’t, the adage stems from the belief among many in the heydays that cricket was a gentleman’s game, and that all its rules were pillars of righteousness that could only be enjoyed by gentlemen. It was used to suggest that “something was not acceptable.” However, no one uses it any longer because “success at any cost is more important than how you get there.”

Doshi is of the belief that “it is not wrong to accumulate wealth, as long as it is done in an organic manner.” This belief has been ingrained in him from his time on the cricketing pitch, where he learnt to accept what a day’s play had to offer: “If you have the will to win, you must also have the equal courage to lose.” One of the sportsmen who still epitomises this ideal, according to the speaker, is tennis legend Roger Federer.

To draw a parallel between the way sports, especially cricket, is played today and in the past, we got Doshi’s view on the recent ball-tampering scandal. “Everybody saw the Australian captain, Steve Smith, do something extraordinary on the field under his guidance. The question is, was he really so upset because he was caught doing it, or was he already doing it and it went unnoticed?” He questioned, since the commentators did say that the ball was swinging too early during earlier matches.

But today’s scandals would certainly be laughable to those who played the game in a different spirit. Take for example the legendary batsman of the late nineteenth century, W.D. Grace, who always indulged his fans with his outstanding batting.

It was unusual to see him get out on the third ball, but once, when it did happen, he put the bails back on the stumps, and asked the bowler to continue bowling. Obviously, the bowler objected, but not after Grace reminded him, “Lad, they’ve not come to see you bowl, they’ve come to see me bat.”

So the game was played for entertainment – and not for victory. Here is how that can be applied to ethical business practices in Doshi’s words: “In today’s world, there is a lot of extremist situations in business. People are following Excel sheets, as we know, which makes the bottom line – capital Rtn. Mahesh Khubchandani introduces the guest speaker gain – more important than the professional management of an establishment.”

In the end, he asks us to think “progressive rather than aggressive,” as it is when business turns aggressive, that “ethics fly out of the window.”