On the 74th Independence Day, as India looked forward to a new and renewed future beyond COVID, another major innings came to an end. It should go down as one of the most phenomenal journeys in Indian cricket as Dhoni hung up his boots from all forms of cricket. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (or MSD) underlined the ability to lead India to wins in all formats of the game and under the most impossible situations. His performance track record speaks for itself. His journey began with the T-20 World Cup win in 2007 and his finest hour came in India’s World Cup win in 2011. One must not forget that if the Chennai Super Kings became a superpower in the IPL, it was purely due to the personal charisma and leadership of Dhoni. As Dhoni hangs his boots, it is interesting to look back at the lessons that Dhoni’s style and career holds for fund managers in India.
Key takeaways for Indian fund managers from the Dhoni story
He was not the one man army like Botham, Hadlee or Kapil Dev. He was also not a stylist like Mark Waugh or Lakshman. He was not even technical precise like Dravid or Gavaskar. Yet he leaves some important lessons that fund managers can glean.
- Play to win and nothing else. Like Dhoni always played the game in any form to be the best, so also fund managers must be obsesses with beating the benchmarks. Of course, Dhoni was also a man who believed extensively in fair and ethical play and that is something the fund managers cannot afford to forget.
- A fund manager should give confidence to investors that he is best suited to manage their money. That is a lot like Dhoni who could instil hope and optimism in the hearts of 1.30 billion Indians that as long as Dhoni was there, victory was a possibility.
- Never lose your cool in tricky situations. No one exhibited it again and again like Dhoni did. Whether it was taking India to the victory target in the 2011 World Cup or taking Chennai Super Kings to victory in 2010 and 2011, he was the Captain Cool.
- Fund managers must think out of the box. There are times when the traditional fund management approach may not work. A good fund manager is one who sees that coming and changes tack accordingly. This was demonstrated by Dhoni in the World Cup final in 2011. Despite the daunting target set by Sri Lanka, Dhoni took a risk and promoted himself in the batting order. He first snatched the initiative and then the game from the Lankans. It was a classic case of thinking out of the box.
- One important lesson Dhoni carries for fund managers is never to be ambivalent. It is OK to take time to evaluate and arrive at a decision, but once the data is in front of you have to take quick decisions. You can go on debating and consulting for ever. The decision has to be taken and you must own responsibility.
- A good fund manager never shirks the tough decision. Getting rid of a high profile from your portfolio is never an easy job. But you need to do it if it does not add value. Dhoni was a classic epitome of that quality. When senior places refused to cooperate in the team, Dhoni had to move in and take a call on removing these people from the team.
- Take risks because you do take decisions in vacuum of information. Nobody knew that Eicher would be a 100 bagger back in 2009. But that is where fund managers need to take on the risk. Take the case of Dhoni. When Pakistan were close to running away with the match in the 2007 T-20 final, Dhoni brought in Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over and the rest is history. So risks are inevitable
- You are as good as your last quarter performance. That is why Dhoni always insisted in performing in each and every match. It is not enough to snatch a one-off victory. You need to make winning a habit. That is only possible if you address each quarter as your biggest challenge. Fund managers need to learn that they cannot rest on past laurels.
- And finally, if you are a good fund manager, the fund must perform well even after you leave. That is what is called creating perpetuity in the structure of management. If the fund performance drops after your exit, you have not done a good job for the future. Remember, if the current Indian team manages without Dhoni, it is as much a tribute to Dhoni as it is to Kohli.
Dhoni may leave a void in Indian cricket for cricket lovers who have got used to his style over the last 15 years. But, the show must go on!