06 March 2021

The ‘core base,’ according to Ranjan Madugalle


This is the third part of a series of articles on the elusive Ranjan Madugalle. Elusive, because the man, citing contractual constraint, declines interviews. Maybe he just does his thing, that’s possible too. Anyway, this one is about what he had to say about ‘self.’

Advice for young people? That’s the question he was asked. The answer had several parts. This one went like this: ‘Understand your own culture, your beliefs, and values. Build your own core base, just like a batsman who has a proper stance.’

He’s said a lot here. It could be translated in several ways. Know who you are, is one. Get your fundamentals right; that’s something he said addressing the assembly at his alma mater almost 40 years ago. Especially when you hit a rut, he explained at the time. He was stressing on values and used cricketing metaphors to elaborate: ‘when I have a run of poor scores I get back to the fundamentals — my stance, my back-lift.’  

Culture, beliefs and values we all have. It’s a good place to begin figuring out who we are and what is truly important to us. Reflecting on such things gives perspective. It hones purpose. Yields the ‘larger picture.’ A lot of sporting personalities do draw something from culture and belief systems. We’ve seen indications and maybe the particular player goes beyond going through the motions and symbolisms. We see people making the sign of the cross. Some look towards the ‘heavens’. Some wear pirith nool. There are innumerable talismans. There are good luck charms and elaborate rituals before facing every delivery.

That’s probably not what Ranjan was talking about. ‘Just like a batsman who has a proper stance.’ Of course we have cricketers like Shivnarine Chanderpauls whose stance few coaches would encourage youngsters to adopt. We have the occasional Paul Adams with weird bowling actions. Then we have the Sanath Jayasuriyas who revolutionize approach to particular formats. And of course Dilshans inventing new strokes. That said, the vast majority sooner or later revert to the tried and tested.

Cultures, especially those who long histories, are resilient partly because they’ve figured out a ‘core base’ that suits the lands and the times, so to speak. The sathara brahma viharana for example, is at once a foundation for engagement and a coping mechanism in moments of adversity. Does this mean, however, that all it takes is to be (for example) a good student of the particular doctrinal test?

I don’t think Ranjan is saying that. He probably means, ‘know your culture so you can draw from it what you need without re-inventing the wheel, but its up to you to forge an identity-core, an “essence” of who you are and what works best for you.’

It doesn’t happen overnight. It cannot, indeed, happen overnight. Take a lot of thought. A lot of practice. A lot of adjustment. You probably get beaten many times until you get it sorted out. There will also be moments when you ‘drop your guard’ and have your wickets scrambled. No one is perfect. No one is a god or goddess. However, this side of divinity, the search for perfection demands that you have a set of core operative principles, if you want to put it that way. If your platform is shaky, you are likely to wobble. Try facing Murali in his prime while wobbling!  

Now if you take 100 batsmen, most of them would have the same ‘stance,’ give or take slight deviations. That’s where the analogy stops. A ‘core base’ is about a lot of things, stance or bowling action in cricket, ball-handling skills in basketball or choice of opening in chess, being just one element in a wide range of elements that need to be perfected. They all add up to making ‘the core base.’

People do acquire something akin to a set of core principles or weapons, perhaps unconsciously, but I feel that those who consciously develop such things have an edge. I don’t have the stats on this, but I feel that those who are as diligent about getting ‘core base’ sorted as are about line-and-length for instance, are more likely to reach potential and more.

Core base. Something to think about.

Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']

Do you have a plan? Strengths and weaknesses It's all about partnerships
Not all victories are recorded