It is teamwork that counts!

Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

Our cricket appears to have hit rock bottom. Things just could not be any worse than they are at this juncture. The common Pakistani is perplexed as always. To the uninitiated, our team’s debacle somehow makes no sense. Going by their past record, it was evident that individually the players hadn’t done all that badly. Some had even entered record books. And yet, when the team found itself in dire straits, most of our chaps were found wanting.
Not all that long ago, our team had landed in the UAE; pulled itself up by the bootstraps and handed the much-fancied English cricket team a white-wash they found difficult to live down for years. Everyone was all praise then for the team for having fathomed the secret of success once again. Then, things went awry once again in the limited-overs’ version of the game. The same group of players, who had made the country proud after the test series, once again succumbed to the mysterious ailment that leads to the team losing all sense of purpose. What came unstuck and how? This is the nub of the mystery.
One is no expert of the game. Nor can one dilate on the technical aspects of its ups and down. In what may amount to sticking one’s neck out, one may venture to proffer an explanation for the somewhat patchy performance of the group that initially rose to heights as a ‘team’ and then, just as suddenly, metamorphosed into a motley gang of disparate players lacking all sense of purpose.
The fact is that Pakistan has all too often of late been represented by a group of (goodly) players, but hardly ever by a cohesive, well-knit team. Some of our players – man to man – could compare with the best anywhere but, regrettably, more often than not they hardly gel as a national team. When they do, they are a match for the best team in the world otherwise they present an easy target. If only our boys take would take pains to merge their individual identities into a team unit, they could emerge as a virtually unbeatable combination. The pity is that this happens only once in a while and that too merely by happenstance. What must never be forgotten is that it is teams that win matches. A disparate group of players – however brilliant individually – can rarely come off well enough to emerge victorious in an international team competition.
Success, then, comes through team-work. This holds true not only in the field of sports but also elsewhere. In every field of endeavor, it is the team spirit and team effort – or the absence thereof – that marks the difference between success and failure. This has been axiomatic through the ages. Brilliant victories in history have been made possible not only by the superior strategy and/or strength of the victors, but also through the lack of cohesion and purposefulness (in other words, absence of team-spirit) in the camp of the vanquished.
Looking at the broader canvas, one can draw a lesson from our history. The edifice of the Mughal Empire crumbled unceremoniously; while a handful of European adventurers managed to consolidate their hold on the sub-continent as colonial masters. Does that not ring a bell? Nearer to the present, if one were to single out one basic reason for our failure to emerge as a dynamic state, it would surely be absence of team-spirit and of teamwork. Our country has produced several brilliant and outstanding individuals; yet these individuals have rarely been able to function as members of a cohesive team. We are very good at creating ethnic and ‘biradari’ groups as well as bureaucratic mafias, but when it comes to forming a constructive grouping, we are found wanting.
Ever wonder why Pakistani experts are such outstanding successes in foreign countries and yet when the same people return home they are indistinguishable from the mediocre crowd? The explanation is not far to seek. Unlike at home, when abroad our technical experts are compelled to adjust snugly as members of a cohesive and well-coordinated team. He or she then operates above all as an element of that team. An individual who cannot, or will not, function as a team member or who lets the team down is considered a misfit and is promptly eased out.
In the Land of the Pure, the opposite is true. Here it is the team member who is considered a misfit. Each individual endeavors to outshine the others in his or her personal capacity. Rather than work for the good of the ‘team’, he or she is, instead, more interested in denigrating his colleagues in order to feather his or her own nest. Letting the team down – in sports as in other fields – is, in our blessed land, the name of the game. No wonder, then, that most ventures end in disaster.
Our bureaucratic machinery is anything but a team. As a matter of fact, most people appear to be working at cross-purposes. Each government functionary appears to have his own set of goals and his own order of priorities. The effort appears to be to outdo one other and to forge ahead at the expense of the other members of the team.
Confusion also reigns supreme about the functions of the ‘captain’ of the team. At times, we take obsequiousness to such extremes that sycophancy takes over. As a consequence, we end up not with a team but with a ‘chief’ and a herd of yes-men. A single individual, however competent, just cannot win the match single-handed, whatever be the field. A cohesive team of loyal, trustworthy but nevertheless enterprising and innovative individuals is a prerequisite for success in any field of endeavor. Mere individual effort is rarely sufficient; a certain measure of dovetailing and coordination is essential.
Here, a word about personal ambition would be in order. Ambition is not a bad attribute per se, since it helps to bring out the best in a person. But ambition needs to be tempered and molded. Carried to the extreme, it is apt to lead to crippling distortions. Individual ambition has to be modulated in order to ensure the good of the ‘team’ as a whole. Some of our over-ambitious public figures, for instance, have done incalculable harm to national interest.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.

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