In some ways, CAT is quite akin to the game of cricket. Both are full of uncertainty, as is life. Both work up a frenzy among their followers, of which there are aplenty. And both thrive on ‘expert’ opinions of people most of whom are not even related to the ‘real’ experience!
But then, like some of the questions in the recent years’ CAT exams, in which practically each choice could be debated upon and defended logically (ofcourse, depending on one’s logical inclinations and interests), every person can hold an opinion about CAT and Cricket and remain ‘technically’ correct.
In that light, yours truly would request you to consider this piece to be no more (or less) than an ‘expert opinion’ – albeit when you have AN opinion that a team of IIM-IIT alumni shares after analysing an exam and its trends over the recent past – a team that has successfully helped hundreds of students crack the CAT with a strike rate as good as Dhoni and Gayle – it does come close to the category of ‘expert’ opinion, without the exclamatory cynicism attached to the word ‘expert’.
Similarity Number – 1: Aussies’ rules rule
Winning does not require you to do extra-ordinary things; it only requires you to do the ordinary things extra-ordinarily well. This simple mantra is best exemplified by the most successful cricket team of a few years back, the Australian cricket team. They just used to focus on the simple stuff – bat well, bowl well, field well. The CAT is no different. It is finally about doing the basics well – read your questions well, manage your time within the section well, and focus ‘on the moment’ rather than thinking about the questions that you have crossed or those you are yet to face. One of the most common refrains heard when the aspirants walk out is ‘how did I miss out on this, it was so simple’. That is probably the worst feeling to have after months of slogging towards this goal.
Another thing that used to characterize the Australian cricket team was their ‘win each session’ approach. So, in an ODI for example, instead of looking at a game as a 100 over affair, they used to see it as 10 sessions of 10 overs each and focus on winning (gaining an edge over opposition in) each of these 10 sessions. You can also look at CAT as 10 mini-sessions of 13-15 minutes each. This will not only make things simpler, but also allow you to react faster to any problem that you are facing. The result of each session keeps you more alert, more involved and more motivated to do better!
Similarity Number – 2: Be yourself and relax
After all, it’s a game. It is not a matter of life and death – no matter what you make yourself believe the stakes to be. A little tension usually helps – it gets the adrenaline flowing. But then you shouldn’t lose perspective. You play to win but a good sport knows that defeat will come along once in a while. There are times when others will do better than you do. What you look to do is to maximise your chances of success. And the only way you can do that is by being yourself. Dhoni is Dhoni because he does not try to be a De Villiers. And vice-versa. You know yourself best, and you must use this knowledge to the hilt. Those who fall into the trap of simply trying to emulate others, who have been touted to be the success stories in the past, usually fail. Try and think of a clone who got even close to the original in terms of success – you will struggle to come up with an answer either for cricket or for CAT.
Similarity Number – 3: Adapt to the conditions
A pathetic score on the docile Kanpur pitch would be more than a handy total at the bouncy WACA pitch at Perth. A good bowling performance at the small and batsmen friendly Ferozeshah Kotla would result in very different statistics from those reflecting a good bowling performance under the seaming, swing-friendly conditions at the Oval. Adapting to the given conditions and setting realistic targets is the first step in doing well anywhere, in any part of the world. And the same goes for CAT – adapting to a given test structure is the key to success. Any time that is spent in figuring out your target under the given conditions, or the best approach to a given test, is not time wasted; it is infact an investment that allows you to best utilize the remaining time. This is an extremely basic fact and is highlighted by that post-exam feeling of “oh, I could have done much better” or “oh, I knew it; why didn’t I do it” is significantly more prevalent than “there really wasn’t much I could have done out there”.
Most people enter into the CAT test centre with soaring expectations, especially if the exam even hints at a relatively easy level as compared to some of the earlier CATs. If the thought “Aaj to pahle se easy hai, I should score high” crosses your mind, you can’t be blamed for thinking in that manner. However, over the years, we have seen more students failing to crack the CAT because they tried to do too much than because they were able to do too little. Most are not able to adapt well and adjust their expectations keeping in mind that the actual exam itself creates a lot of pressure on everyone; and that by itself implies a drop in performance more or less across the board. Too many people trying to do too much is surely a better chance for you, if you only push yourself for a performance a few notches higher (and not drastically so) in a relatively easy paper. A little compromise on accuracy for a greater speed is never a bad idea for a relatively balanced test. However, playing to your strengths, and only adjusting for the given conditions, is the ideal way to go.
Similarity Number – 4: Make the power play and the slog-overs count
You watch a 50-over game of a side that finishes with a great score closely enough and you realise a couple of things – the side is likely to have got off to a solid, if not a runaway start, and the side is likely to have make the last few overs count big. What happens in the middle overs is that the side consolidates and just tries to keep above a certain scoring rate without losing too many wickets.
Just try and think of how this strategy is likely to work in the CAT – you should start with questions that you are comfortable with, and try to end with questions that you are really confident of. A speedy start helps you to build nice momentum and also allows your nerves to settle down quickly. You get a feeling of being in control. It is similar to getting your best batsman out in the middle as early as possible so that he can take command of the situation. Similarly, you try and end with questions that you have a good handle over. The end of the exam is where the pressure is the greatest and you need to retain focus and give it a nice final push – this can be best done when you have something that you are fairly confident of towards the end. The end of the exam is where you need a ‘finisher’ – someone like Michael Bevan – with nerves of steel. You know that he will score well even on a bad day.
Similarity Number – 5: The power of ‘luck by chance’
In cricket, there are times when nothing goes right for you – you hit the ball well, but it goes straight to the fielder; you hit a shot worthy of a six but the wind brings the ball back in just enough for the fielder to catch it; worse, the umpire rules you out wrongly. There is no cricketer worth a mention who would not have gone through such phases where he is ‘unlucky’. But then, you would struggle to find someone who did not have an inexplicably lucky period too during his career. The idea is that luck evens out over a period of time and if you good enough, it will show – if not in the first attempt, then in the next. Just as they say in cricket – Form is temporary, class is permanent. So, in CAT too, if you have it in you, it will show, sooner or (than) later.
Another important lesson here is that ‘When you are in form, make every ball and every innings count’. So, never be complacent and always translate your form into big scores. This will give you the confidence to do well in the ‘match’ – CAT – that counts.
Similarity Number – 6: It’s not over till it’s over
How many times have you seen a cricket match turning on its head several times during those few hours? Practically every match has periods where a team bounces back from the brink of defeat (or as they say pulls a defeat from the jaws of victory). As Sidhu paaji says – it’s not over till the fat lady sings! The fat lady in CAT might be the timer on the screen. But until that time, you need to believe that you have a chance if you simply keep on making best use of the remaining time and keep giving your best. You should neither think of giving up, nor feel you have already done enough.
So, all you CAT aspirants out there – be a sport, play hard and play well, give it your best –and enjoy it. It’s a game after all – a game of glorious uncertainties just like cricket is – only the name is CAT.
Talking about similarity between Cricket and CAT, here is our effort to bring Cricket and CAT together and make your CAT prep interesting:
Do take a look in case you have some time.
This piece is written by Deekshant, Founder Director and student-mentor at MBAGuru who is a B.Tech. from the prestigious IIT Delhi and a Post Graduate in Management from the prestigious IIM Calcutta. Prior to his MBA, Deekshant designed power plants for leading multinationals with BHEL across several continents. With an unflinching belief in his vision, Deekshant set a trend of sorts at IIM Calcutta when he opted out of the lucrative placement race and founded MBAGuru. A state-level cricketer, and a professional song-writer, Deekshant is the lyricist for India’s top hind-rock band, Euphoria.
The esteemed faculty members, with their experience, have exposed us to the different kinds of exam problems and questions. They, along with supportive staff members, have motivated and guided us throughout this journey. The GD and PI sessions held at the end are very helpful to understand the actual scenario.