They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is especially true for Bangalore-based IT professional Dev Prasad’s latest book Pitch It! which promises much, but fails to deliver.
For most laymen, the corporate world is an intriguing but ultimately incomprehensible planet. However, combining it with the most popular sport in the country should have made it more palatable. But Pitch It! misses the mark by a pole.
A collection of 60 stories drawing analogies from cricket and the business sector, Pitch It! tells tales of leadership, attitude, team building, ethics, execution and innovation, among other virtues and pitfalls in the world of management and sport.
The collection has an underwhelming opening story which draws a parallel between Sachin Tendulkar and JRD Tata. The theme of the story is ‘humility’, a characteristic in itself very vague. Because he doesn’t seem to have a strong case, the author ends up repeating himself too many times within the six-page vignette. It almost seems more in keeping with a spiritual self-help book rather than a fun management guide.
Another story in the same chapter Power of communication focuses on the importance of interaction within a team in both sport and business. It focuses on former England captain Mike Brearley and ex-IBM chairman Loius V Gertsner. However, Mike Brearley was a better example of an innovative thinker, though he was a very good manager as well.
Some chapters have weak premises, while some others simply make wrong innuendoes. In the chapter Integrity vs Winning, the author questions how often cricketers are dropped due to improper behaviour. It appears as if someone is not keeping up with the news, as just a few months ago, Australian cricketers Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were all suspended for a Test against India for failing to complete an e-mail feedback on how the team could improve. While player suspensions may not happen as often as they should, it still doesn’t warrant making generic statements.
This is not to say all the stories are as weak. The second story in the chapter on leadership called Turnaround Specialist is interesting as it doesn’t talk about a ‘virtue’ as debatable as modesty, but focuses on the more tangible one of aggression and taking bold decisions. It also helps that the author takes instances from the professional lives of the two men in focus instead of their personal lives.
Some other stories like Building on Your Strengths, which compares the West Indies Team of the 1970s and 80s with Wendelin Wiedeking, former CEO of Porshe AG, and Good Infrastructure, which explores the succession planning technique used by the Australian Cricket Board and Toyota Motor Corporation, are some of the other intriguing stories. What sets them apart is that they don’t beat an old drum but introduce more specific and less-talked about ideas.
Meanwhile, those expecting inside-scoops from either the cricketing or corporate worlds will be disappointed. Instead of telling interesting but rarely narrated tidbits and anecdotes about cricketers and corporate moghuls, most of the stories settle for easily accessible statistics. This makes the story-telling style dry and it grows old too fast. The few stories which deviate from this pattern are too few and far between.
The author tries to bite off more than he can chew as he attempts to create a blueprint of success within 300 or so pages. He hurriedly tries to cover the whole nine yards, or in this case 22 yards, of the tricks of the trade, but ends up compromising on the depth of most of the stories.
Instead of writing 60 short stories covering so many aspects of management, he should probably have focused on some aspects and written fewer but more elaborate studies on each of them.
For all its shortcomings, Pitch It! is an easy read. Spread across 10 chapters, every story is independent of one another.
One can pick and choose random stories from the collection and they would make complete sense, which should be alluring, especially for casual readers.
But one can’t help but feel this was a lost opportunity for the author to bring together the best and worst of two worlds.