Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Graduate students and cricket

Sometimes we try to find a way of living our lives. We all do, just our approach is different. Just off the track, but lets get one thing straight: we are always curious about our own lives. We think about it a lot (if you dont, please do it. Its good for you) , we want to know what's going to happen in future, we want to know if everything is going well with it, we try our best to learn surviving from our past that we cant change. Consciously or unconsciously, we think about all these things. And we reach a point where we are unable to sort it out ourselves. And then we try to find some clues, some guidelines, some real life examples around us that may show us a way.

Coming back to the point, some people consult an astrologer, some others devote to God, some read books, and some others try to look around to see if someone was in a similar situation. I sometimes find cricket, the whole world of cricket very interesting in that aspect. I actually find it very simple to comprehend, and even if you are not an avid cricket fan, I feel it will make sense to you as well.

A few days back, I was thinking about lives of graduate students: PhD students (who go on for years before winding up), MS students (2 years) and MBA/MEM students (1 to 1.5 years). All get their respective degrees. All are seemingly happy with whatever they achieve in that period. If you have been thru the grad school experience, you will observe that MBA/MEM students slog day in and day out, worrying about their classes and on campus jobs (only). They are always in top gear, whereas PhD students go thru phases. There are days when they work really hard, get exciting results, do some cool work and there are days when they just hibernate. PhD students know how and when to change gears. MS students are somewhere in between. Being a former MS and now a PhD student myself, and having so many MBA/MEM friends, I have very closely observed these patterns.

I was trying to think about this vast difference between PhD and MBA/MEM students, their thinking prototype, their attitude towards life, and cricket helped me here. Try to compare MBA/MEM with 20-20 cricket, MS with One Day cricket and PhD with a Test match, and you will find so many similarities :).

MBA/MEM with 20-20 cricket:

In 20-20 game, you know that you have to perform only for a short period, so you go gung-ho. You know what you have to do and you just do it. You start hitting from first ball, don't bother about settling down, it doesn't matter how runs/ wickets come, it doesn't matter how good or bad the pitch is and if its overcast or clear, planning a strategy and developing yours skills such as endurance and grace doesn't fit in this format, you don't know whats going to happen next and the end result is more important than the course of action. The game itself is very colorful and festive with dances and firework.

PhD with Test cricket:

You start cautiously, try getting information about pitch and weather conditions before playing your game, you take some time to settle down and come in the groove, however, once you are settled its difficult to get you out, you plan your innings in your head and you mix aggression with caution in phases, the process and enjoyment of the game as as (if not more) important as the end result, one ball can get you and your team out, and your real strength is your talent, endurance as well as grace and not just brutal power, and games are sometimes won and mind rather than on field. Test cricket may not be colorful, but its absorbing and full of class.

MS with One Day cricket:

Its something in-between: you start attacking right away (like 20-20), but slow down in middle overs and consolidate innings (like Tests) before going for the kill at the end. Pitch, weather, opposition has some importance but not as much, you need endurance but sometimes you just need to go for the kill. And most games are decided on what you do in last few minutes :).

I guess our choice of grad-school and in turn our personality, and choosing a satisfying career may be as simple as knowing what you like the best: 20-20, One-Day or Test. It works for me: I like Test matches, I like that real battle going on for 5 days, I like the fact that winning a Test match takes some special talent and it cannot be a fluke. I cherish those nail biting sessions, testing bowling spells and attractively silky strokeplay. I feel the excitement in 20-20 in too short-lived. I prefer something that will be remembered forever. I like something that challenges your soul. In that (cricketing) sense, VVS Laxman's epic 281 on Eden Gardens remains to be the most inspirational story for me and I worship Steve Waugh and Rahul Dravid for their mental toughness and concentration. I sometimes even recollect some of their innings/ shots when I am in trouble and I want to just hang-in there. Sometimes, failure is not an option in life. I like the concept of such battles within ourselves.

So what do YOU prefer?