What’s wrong with Pranav Dhanawade’s World Record? – Ethics of a superlative performance in sports

On 1st of July, 2013 at Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Spain and Italy played the final of the Euro 2012. Then reigning world champion Spanish side had completely dominated the final and was leading 4-0 against Italy. When ninety minutes were over, the referee added 4 minutes of injury time. Italians looked physically and emotionally exhausted and some of their stars like Balotelli and Pirlo already had tears in their eyes. At that moment, TV cameras caught Iker Casillas, Spanish captain and goalkeeper repeatedly asking the referee to stop the game. He was asking the referee to show “respect for Italy!”. His actions highlighted an important principle – To keep marauding an exhausted and weakened adversary doesn’t suit the true spirit of any sport. Why do I remember it right now? Because of an Indian School Cricketer, Pranav Dhanwade’s record breaking performance of scoring 1009 runs in a single innings. Pranav broke a century-old record of 649 runs.


Like everybody else when I read about Pranav Dhanawade’s feat I was literally awestruck. In school cricket scoring even a 50 is tough because at that age kids don’t have the physical or mental strength to go on playing for a long period. Pranav Dhanawade batted for a day and a half and achieved this feat. His name is in record books and it will take years probably another century for any other batsman to go even anywhere near him. However after that moment of bedazzled ‘Wow’, when my mind returned to the rational terrain, a question popped up, “Wasn’t there anyone who could take his wicket? For that long a period?”


Pranav Dhanawade deserves every bit of praise and accolades he has been receiving. Pranav comes from a very humble background and he can be a role model for millions of kids like him. But let’s go back to the game. Looking at the scorecard, it’s obvious that there has been an abysmal difference between the two teams. At the end of the first day, Pranav had already broken the world record and was not out on 652. This is what DNA published next morning.

Arya Gurukul School coach Yogesh Jagtap was awestruck by Pranav’s innings. “That was special. I have never seen something like this. Yes, the ground may be small like a Cross Maidan or he was dropped quite a few times by my players, but credit to him for the way he played,” said Jagtap.

“The boys playing for my team were actually from U-14 and most of them playing for the first time. My U-16 team players who were supposed to participate could not come as the principal could not release them due to 10th exams. The boys were under prepared. In fact, such was the impact of his shots that they could not put hand to the ball,” he added.

Yes! You read it right. The boys from Arya Gurukul were from Under-14 team and many playing for the first time. It explains why such a difference between two teams! Anyone who has played sports in school knows very well that from 14 to 16 is the time when a boy undergoes maximum physical changes and under-14 and under-16 teams are completely different ballgames.

A few things in the story that I don’t approve of. First of all, the coach had an opportunity to teach his team an important lesson in sportsmanship. He could have taught the team that it’s almost unethical to torture and decimate someone for personal records in an uneven contest. It’s one thing to dominate someone who is not as gifted or not as skilled as you. But it’s not fair to crush someone who is biologically or physically not equipped to match you. The coach, through Pranav, went for personal glory for himself. I also read that the Coach, Mubin Shaikh, is a generous gentleman who hasn’t even charged any fee from Pranav because of his family’s financial condition. However in the process of Pranav’s world record, the decision of going on with the innings might have caused harm to a few. Just think about those kids, bowlers of Arya Gurukul, some of who weren’t even supposed to be playing on that day! how would they feel? How would they have been received in their school? or the ridicule and bullying they would suffer! For example this piece from Andy Zaltzman? Maybe a few of them would leave cricket altogether. In the end, I just want to say one thing to the coach of Pranav’s team, “Sir, probably you brought in front of us a future star, but you – yourself – missed a chance to teach a lesson in fairness and sportsmanship.”

Jennifer Lawrence and unfair wage practices

Jennifer-Lawrence-Drawing-4Jennifer Lawrence is one of the brightest actors of our times. Be it blockbusters like Hunger Games or Oscar-deserving American Hustler and Silver Linings Playbook, she has excelled in almost every character she has performed. However she also showed a very intellectual side of hers when she wrote a very good essay  about the prevalent wage gap between male and female actors in Hollywood. In her own style and from her personal experiences she highlights two important issues. First, she could have negotiated a better remuneration. Two, she doesn’t do it because probably whenever women try to be blunt or direct, they are perceived as aggressive and need to face a lot more rejection than their male counterparts.

She is absolutely right in her hypotheses. Various experiments have proven that women tend to assert less power mainly because they fear backlash. In a series of studies Victoria Brescoll from Yale showed that the same assertiveness between men and women is treated differently. While even slight assertiveness from women is seen as ‘being too aggressive’, men actually get away with lot more. Not only that it has also been seen that. It is a harsh reality that somehow across cultures women are expected to be ‘nice’. No wonder, Leigh Thompson’s research finds that a difference of a few thousand US Dollars between a man and a woman’s salary in the first job post-MBA, escalates to almost a million dollar difference a couple of decades down the line.

What’s the remedy? Well, there is no evidence that men negotiate better than women. In fact there is evidence that when women negotiate on behalf of somebody else, they actually negotiate better than their male counterparts. The simple remedy is preparation. Women, when they negotiate, should prepare themselves better and understand the total potential of the deal beforehand. Preparation and simple awareness of total value that could be created, would help any negotiator negotiate more ambitiously.

What can corporates do? Simple answer is soul-searching. Ellen Pao, as an interim CEO of Reddit had banned salary negotiations to avoid unfair salary structures and protect female employees from being punished unfairly.  (Also cited here).

However banning negotiations is neither sufficient nor optimal. Corporates should do more soul-searching and create standard negotiation principles across the board which would ensure fairness and equality in salaries across gender, races and social classes.

By the way, Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely right. All she claims is proven by robust research in social science.


Veeru – The Memory-Maker

sehwag1Virender Sehwag, the best Indian batsman of all time, retired from all forms of cricket.  The cricketer who has probably given us the most amazing memories has gone. Nobody’s retirement has left me so sad and nostalgic as Veeru’s retirement.

The year 1999-00. The worst season for any Indian cricket fan. India lost to South Africa at home. Sachin Tendulkar failed as a captain. Azhar, a favourite for many like me was banned for match-fixing along with Ajay Jadeja. In India, cricketers are Gods. Our faith was deeply shaken. Then came Sourav Ganguly. A stylish southpaw with lot of attitude. Ganguly went on to become the most important leader in the history of Indian cricket mainly because he put together a team with a different attitude. An attitude that fans and analysts didn’t associate with India. Before Ganguly, an Indian cricketer was like Gavaskar-Vengsarkar, technically perfect, with a strong calculative mind, personally ambitious and with a gentlemanly attitude. Nobody associated loud, openly expressive body language and ostensibly aggressive attitude with Indian cricketers. Ganguly’s team changed it. And Sehwag was his main soldier. Nobody has given such Adrenalin-provoking moments to Indian fans as he has. Veeru was entertaining to the core. His success and his failures – were equally entertaining.

Sehwag scoring a triple hundred at Multan

Multan ka Sultan

The first such moment came when he hit his first century. There was no Tendulkar and Ganguly had asked him to open. Under an overcast Colombo sky, boundaries rained and in no time, we were speculating whether he will break Azhar’s record or not. Finally he didn’t. But all of a sudden, India had found a fluent stroke-player.

The next Sehwag moment also came in Colombo – in September 2002, in the semifinal of ICC Champions Trophy. Against a cruising South African team, Sehwag, in tandem with Harbhajan, used his temporary off-spin and chocked Proteas to another historic defeat.

Fastest Century at Hamilton

Fastest Century against NZL at Hamilton

Veeru had a penchant of hitting big sixes on crucial moments. On the first day of the Boxing Day test in 2003 at Melbourne, he was on the verge of hitting the fastest double hundred by an Indian. He was on 195 and he tried to hit a huge six over the longest boundary in the world, and he failed. He was caught on the boundary. He lost his wicket to the most mediocre bowler from the opposition, Simon Katich. But that’s Veeru for you!

However three months later, in Multan, against Pakistan he didn’t get out. When he was on 99, he hit a huge six over long-on to reach hundred, and some two hundred runs later, when he was on 299, he hit another six to Saqlain Mushtaq and reached his triple century – the first batsman to score a triple century in tests for India. While receiving his man-of-the-match award he said, speaking in Hindi, “I knew I would because my teammates, Laxman (VVS) and all used to say that if anyone can score a triple hundred, its you.” He was so talented and we had so much faith in him that even his most self-praising statements didn’t sound arrogant.

Triple Century against South Africa

Triple Century Against South Africa

From that point onward Sehwag was a consistent performer in the Indian team. Be it tests or ODIs, Sehwag always delivered. Two years after his Multan heroics, he was facing Pakistan in Bengaluru. Those were tough times for Indian cricket. It was the beginning of the end for Ganguly’s captaincy. Everyone looked ordinary against an efficient Pakistani attack. But Sehwag didn’t compromise with anything – neither with attitude, nor with style and scored a great 201, which in my opinion is his best innings in test cricket. Also a record for the highest score in a losing cause.

On 29th of March, he broke his own record of 309 and scored 319. For the first time in the history of cricket, fans were disappointed when a batsman got out after scoring 319. He looked so much in command for a day and a half that everyone thought he would score 500 runs! At Hamilton in 2009, against New Zealand, he finally broke Azharuddin’s record for the fastest century for India. He broke Tendulkar’s record and scored 219 in an ODI against West Indies. Once again, he got out trying to hit a six.  It was only fair that he was part of a world cup winning team in 2011.

That was Sehwag. He showed that you can be stylish, aggressive and uncompromising and still you can score lots of runs. I once heard Gavaskar somewhere that if Sehwag was a bit more selfish, he would score lot many more runs. Maybe he is right. But then, it wouldn’t be Sehwag. Sehwag never wanted to be a run-machine. He was a memory making machine. His cuts, drives and (mostly unsuccessful) hooks, will remain etched on our memories forever. Thanks Veeru Paji!!

Creative process – Through lens of Improvisation

annbeattieEngaging in a creative process is difficult. One has to bear the pressure of being original and constantly fight the fear of being repetitive or being ‘over-inspired’ by somebody else. Ann Beattie, has been one of the few gifted stalwarts who managed this tension effectively. I came across this very interesting interview of her in the Paris Review (TPR). Generally it’s difficult to appreciate the interviews from TPR unless you know almost entire body of work of the author (Which . However, there are some interesting insights about the process of writing which I personally find quite stimulating.

What Ann describes is an almost improvised process of creation. She says that she doesn’t start writing with a definite outline in mind. That makes her writing more challenging and interesting.

Because I don’t work with an outline, writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock. In the context of a story, a fairly boring thought in a character’s head can work better than a brilliant one, and a brilliantly laid out structure can be so much worse for a story than one that is more haphazard.

A fascinating imagery. It’s interesting how she thinks of rocks in a stream. : Different and distant rocks, of characters, events, images, words and underneath a constant stream of emotions – inspiration! It also reads like a beautiful description of improvisation in any form of art. Combining different elements, jumping from one onto the other, as a part of one journey, in a constantly flowing stream of emotions, weaving a story!

Believing is Enough!!

i amcreativeSo many movies, self-help books and self-proclaimed motivational speakers advocate the power of believing in self. What does social science say? Interestingly, social science says the same. At least in the domain of creativity. For example, one study by Kimberly Jaussi and Amy Randel (2014) showed that those who believe that they are creative are likely to come up with more radically creative ideas than those who don’t. Why? Mainly because people who believe in themselves tend to seek information better. A belief that one is creative actually makes one seek information from more varied sources and seek more creative solutions.

The movie ‘We bought a zoo’ is a nice family movie. Despite not being a masterpiece it has this unique endearing quality. In that movie, there is a fantastic dialogue, “….sometimes all you need is is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it. ”  This can simply be dismissed as mere drama, but science supports it as well.

What if someone doesn’t believe that he/she is creative? There are two alternatives. First, It has been shown in various studies that through creativity training, one can actually increase ‘self-efficacy’ (The first such study was published in 1984, Lock et al.). In other words, if you learn specific techniques for creative idea generation, you are likely to start believing that you are creative. On the other hand, the research mentioned above actually shows that individuals with lower levels of creative self-belief are still capable of coming up with creative ideas. However, their ideas are likely to be more ‘incremental’ in nature. So, if you think you are not creative, still you can make creative suggestions to improve an existing solution.

In summary, whether you believe it or not, you are creative! However, if you believe that you are creative, you are likely to be more ‘out-of-the-box’ than others. You are more likely to experience that momentary ‘Insane courage’ !!

Jaussi, K., & Randel, A. (2014). Where to Look? Creative Self-Efficacy, Knowledge Retrieval, and Incremental and Radical Creativity Creativity Research Journal, 26 (4), 400-410 DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2014.961772
Locke, E., Frederick, E., Lee, C., & Bobko, P. (1984). Effect of self-efficacy, goals, and task strategies on task performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69 (2), 241-251 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.69.2.241