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Indix CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy plays some beach cricket.
Indix CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy plays some beach cricket.

Last Sunday, one of the greatest rivalries in sports occurred, and most Americans didn’t even notice.

An estimated 1 billion people tuned into the Group B match between Pakistan and India in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup — a more than month-long tournament taking place in New Zealand and Australia.

cricketworldcupCricket — a bat-and-ball game originating in southern England in the 16th century — remains an oddity for most Americans.

But the passion runs deep in Britain and many of its former colonies, where the sport takes on an almost religious-like following. As evidence, read this hilariously brutal critique in the Daily Mail detailing England’s dismal performance in a loss to New Zealand this week, with author Paul Newman writing: “It does not get any worse than this. It simply could not.” 

The game of cricket. Photo via Wikipedia.
The game of cricket. Photo via Wikipedia.

Even though cricket has yet to grab the attention of American sports fans, there’s one pocket of the U.S. population where the game resonates: Tech workers who hail from countries such as India, Pakistan, England and South Africa.

On any given Sunday at Redmond’s spacious Marymoor Park — just a few miles from Microsoft campus — you can see the cricket action unfolding with bowlers trying to knock down wickets.

In honor of the Cricket World Cup, we decided to reach out to a few prominent techie cricket lovers, asking them about their love of the sport and how the game has impacted them as tech leaders. (We also got a few predictions who will win in the finals later next month). Continue reading for their responses to our questions.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Why do you love cricket?

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“I enjoy watching Test cricket – it’s the longest form of any sport in the world and can go on for 5 days. I like the drama of the game, the ups and downs, and how you can watch the sub-plots develop – in that way it’s like reading a Russian novel.”

Have you played cricket, and if so in what capacity and at what level?

“Growing up in India, my dream as a boy was to play cricket professionally. The sport had a very rich heritage at my school and I went on to play school and junior cricket as a bowler (right arm off spin). At a certain point, I realized that I had reached my limit and luckily discovered my next passion in engineering and technology!”

What lessons have you taken from the sport of cricket that you’ve applied to your job in the tech industry?

“I was very influenced by the captains on my cricket team in school. In fact, I remember learning one of my first leadership lessons on that team. There was an incident where I was bowling and wasn’t performing at my best. My captain at that time took over from me and got the team a breakthrough and then he handed the bowling back to me and I did go onto taking the most wickets in that inning. I remember being stunned when he did that. It would have made more sense for him to continue, but it left an impression on me. I think that’s an important leadership lesson that I’ve carried with me, in terms of how leaders build confidence around their team and empower people to believe in their own abilities.”

How do you plan to watch/follow the Cricket World Cup?

“My day job doesn’t afford me a lot of time to watch cricket these days, but I use the ESPN Cricinfo app to stay up to speed on live scores and news from the tournament.”

Which team will win the Cricket World Cup?

“I think this time it’s really wide open. There are some great teams and incredible talent. I expect it to be a competitive tournament and look forward to watching the defending champions!”

Venky Harinarayan, Junglee co-founder and former Amazon exec

Why do you love cricket?

Venky
Venky Harinarayan

“Growing up, I have spent more time playing, watching and talking about cricket than anything else. It was a passion. Now it is an old flame.”

Have you played cricket, and if so in what capacity and at what level?

“I played cricket for my high school and was captain of the team in my senior year. I used to play both cricket and tennis then. When I went to college I focused much more on tennis, and though I did play some intra-college cricket, never did play for my college. BTW, I played a game against Sanjayp’s team at high school. Still remember him as wicket keeper. They crushed us btw :)

What lessons have you taken from the sport of cricket that you’ve applied to your job in the tech industry?

“One of the unique roles in cricket is the captain. A captain is a player with a lot of coach-like functions. The captain selects the playing eleven, makes all the decisions on the field, motivates the team, etc. I was also responsible for getting the guys to practice, making sure we had the right equipment. And then you played the game. So I would say, this was great training to do a start-up.”

How do you plan to follow/track/watch the Cricket World Cup?

“It will be a combination of online and TV.”

What is the importance of the Cricket World Cup to you?

“The 1983 World Cup, that India won, arguably changed the face of cricket and India. India was a team of no-hopers and no one took them seriously. But they came together as a team and won the finals against all odds. There was a point during the finals, that my dad turned off the TV, so sure was he that we would lose. After this, cricket got so big in India, that today India pretty much accounts for most of the revenues in cricket. I was a teenager then, and will always remember this World Cup and it was a special feeling.”

Which team will win the Cricket World Cup?

“On form and with the home team advantage, Australia is favored. But cricket is a funny game, and all it takes is one big performance in the elimination phase for a different outcome.”

Dion Almaer, Vice President of Engineering @WalmartLabs

Why do you love cricket?

Dion
Dion Almaer, a leftie batsman

“Cricket is like chess. An honorable sport. It has everything, including the ability to be multiple games in one (20 overs vs. one day vs. test matches etc). Oh, and what other sports let you stop for tea!

I (also) love how the game is both a team sport, and highly individual at times. When you are out there batting it is you and your runner against the world. But you need to come together to execute as a holistic team with a strategy.”

Have you played cricket, and if so in what capacity and at what level?

“I was captain of my cricket team in high school, played club cricket, and also played for my county (kinda like playing for your “state” in the US?). I also grew up around the corner to a cricket school that Joe Hussain owned. He was the father of Nasser Hussain, who was the captain of England, and we played at the same club when kids. He was a leg break bowler back then, so it was fascinating to see him become a batsman. It showed me that if you have a growth mindset and work hard you can do great things. I was a left-handed batsman, and bowled right-handed (medium pace on target). I also enjoyed playing wicket keeper at times to keep in the action!”

What lessons have you taken from the sport of cricket that you’ve applied to your job in the tech industry?

“Cricket teaches you a lot. I learned a lot about leadership as captain of club and school. Being a captain is more like being a coach than in other sports. You make a lot of the decisions. It is also interesting to do that with your peers (vs. an adult coach). My father was coach of some of my teams so I had to overcome the “Dad made you captain!” feelings by modeling good behaviour on the field (and scoring a lot of runs!).”

What is the importance of the Cricket World Cup to you?

Dion Almaer
Dion Almaer

“Over a billion people tuned in to watch India beat Pakistan. 110 million watched the Super Bowl, for reference. It is huge. It is worldwide.”

What team will win the Cricket World Cup?

“Why, England of course. :)”

Other thoughts about cricket?

“A fun story. When I started high school (age 12) I was summoned to the head master’s (principal) office. Uh, oh. That isn’t something you ever want! I went in there to meet the Santa Claus figure and he sat me down and said. “So, Simon’s brother. Finally.” My brother was a semi-pro cricketer (playing for Oxford) and won many trophies for the school. He had heard that I could play and made me captain as a 12-year-old! He also pulled out some brandy and offered it to me: “To a winning season!” We did quite well :)”

Sanjay Parthasarathy, Indix CEO and former Microsoft exec

—Why do you love cricket?

“It mimics life. It is a test of skill, yes, but it’s also a test of character, emotions and others things that are useful in life. I’m not sure I mastered them though.”

cricket-sanjayU15 Sanjay P at the Bombay Wankhede Stadium representing South Zone Under 19 (Sanjay is standing second from left)
Sanjay P (standing second from left) at the Bombay Wankhede Stadium representing South Zone Under 19

Have you played cricket, and if so in what capacity and at what level?

“Yes. I have represented my state (under 15, under 19, under 22), my zone (a collection of states for under 15 and under 19), my school, my university and teams in the first division leagues. Some of my scorecards.”

What lessons have you taken from the sport of cricket that you’ve applied to your job in the tech industry?

Indix CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy
Indix CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy

“So many lessons, but probably my favorite learning is persistence. In the game of cricket, like every other sport, it ain’t over until its over. Sometimes one looks like losing until the very very last minute. So take nothing for granted, take nothing as over, give everything to the last second and the result is never a foregone conclusion.”

How do you plan to follow/track/watch the Cricket World Cup?

“Online is best.”

What is the importance of the Cricket World Cup to you?

“It’s more of an appetizer. I enjoy test match cricket — the 5-day version — which has more of the atmosphere that I enjoy, but the world cup is a fun thing to watch in bite sizes.

cricket-sanjayU15
Sanjay P at the Islam Gymkhana ground, Mumbai, representing South Zone Under 15. (standing 4th from left)

What team will win the Cricket World Cup?

“Australia. The home advantage is substantial and they have a killer team.”

Other thoughts about cricket?

“It’s more fun to play it than watch it, but the newer three-hour version of the game (T20 its called) is quite fun.”

M.R. Rangaswami, philanthropist and co-founder of Sand Hill Group 

Why do you love cricket?

mr-photocricket
M.R. Rangaswami

“I was born in Chennai and grew up with cricket in my DNA. I watched almost all the test matches that were held in Chennai — all five days of them. Boy, did we have a lot of time in our hands!”

Have you played cricket, and if so, in what capacity and at what level?

“I played mostly for fun during my youth on the neighborhood cricket patch. I got in to the varsity level at Madras Law College, I guess because they did not have enough players!”

What lessons have you taken from the sport of cricket that you’ve applied to your job in the tech industry?

“The usual cliche would be ‘team work,’ but for me it got me to do the best I could since many of the players were so much better than me.”

How do you plan to follow the Cricket World Cup?

“A good friend scored some great tickets for the semis in Sydney and for the final at the MCG, which, as we all know, is electrifying when there are 100,000 rabid fans. I have only been there for the Grand Finals of Aussie Rules football which is truly my favorite sport these days.”

What is the importance of the Cricket World Cup to you?

“I’d have the usual dream that India could win, but it could easily be a nightmare.”

What team will win the Cricket World Cup?

“My prediction is Australia wins – a fitting tribute to Phil Hughes.”

Other thoughts about cricket?

“When will it become big in the US? Will it ever?”

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