Rafa and the Ranatunga Principle

Today seems to be a massive theory session. In the morning, I introduced you to the Mata Amrita Index. Now, as I write this watching the third set of (ok it’s the third set now – when I’m starting to write. for all you know, by the time I finish this, the match might be over) the Australian Open, I think it is a good time for me to introduce to you the Ranatunga Principle of energy management.

The Ranatunga principle states that:

When you don’t need to run, walk.

Yes, it is that simple. And if played an instrumental part in Sri Lanka’s victory in the 1996 Cricket world cup. Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain, was a massive guy. Yet, he was an excellent finisher, converting the ones into twos, and the twos into threes, running them hard, making everyone wonder where he managed to get so much energy and stamina from. The key to his performance was what this terriffic energy management.

He knew that the effort involved in each run wasn’t the same. There were a few that were “obvious singles” or “obvious twos” and he correctly realized that there was no point in running them faster than was necessary. And he simply walked them, saving up his precious energy and stamina for the runs that required more energy. In fact, if you recollect, the defining picture of Ranatunga in the 1996 world cup was his nudging a ball to third man and lazily walking a single.

Similarly, in tennis, due to the unique game-set-match scoring system, not all points are of the same value. Some points are more equal than others. For example, it doesnt’ matter if you lose a game at love, or if you lose it after making 30. However, certain points (break points, especially) can make a tremendous difference to the game, and it is important that you win those.

Tennis, especially of the non-grass court variety, is a highly energy-consuming game. We saw on Friday the Nadal-Verdasco game being played for almost five hours. The final also promises to go on for a similar length of time. Even on grass, as we saw in the last Wimbledon, tennis can become an endurance game. To remind you, Rafa Nadal beat Roger Federer in the final back then, taking the fifth set 9-7 (Wimbledon has no tie-breakers in the last set). It was his superior energy-management and stamina-management that saw him through that day.

It had been a long time since I had seen Rafa play, and looking at him play today, it is clear that he has understood the Ranatunga principle well. In fact, he seems to be an excellent exponent of the same. A while back, Federer was leading 40-0, and Rafa just gave up and allowed Federer to take the game, choosing to preserve his energies for more important point. I’m not saying that Rafa has been completely giving up. What I’m saying is that he seems to be doing some kind of a “value analysis” for each point, and then deciding how much energy he is willing to spend on it.

I don’t know if he is a math stud, but you don’t need to be one in order to do simple Ranatunga analysis. You can get a computer to work out the relative values of points for you depending upon the match score, and broadly remember that when you are playing. And once you have done that a few times, you will automatically be able to figure out how much effort to put into each point (remember that you don’t need to know complicated projectile physics in order to catch a ball).

A lot of managers, especially fighters, don’t like the Ranatunga principle. Their management philosophy is that you always need to be f resh, and be prepared, and if you don’t dive on a regular basis, you won’t be able to dive when you actually need to. However, the Ranatunga reply to this is that as long as you know how to dive, and have general practice in diving, you will instinctively dive when you need to, and you should make sure that you have enough energy to dive.

Extending the analogy to work, there are some managers who like to push their subordinates to meet deadlines even when it isn’t important in the larger scheme of things. Their argument here is that their subordinates should have enough experience in diving so that they can use it when they need it. The Ranatunga response to that is for the subordinate to be smart, and to see the larger picture, and to call the manager’s bluff about the criticality of the project whenever it turns out to be not critical.

Ok, so Rafa has won the third set and leads the match 2 sets to 1. If this ends up being a pure endurance 5-setter, I would put my money on Rafa. He seems to be showing superior implementation of the Ranatunga principle.

7 thoughts on “Rafa and the Ranatunga Principle”

    1. ok i didn’t particularly watch that
      but KP is a general stud so you can expect him to do such thing

      surprise was in seeing this employed by a figher like Rafa

  1. Safin used to be an expert at this. He used to regularly not bother about even returning serves and prematurely walk back to his seat.

  2. “Wimbledon has no tie-breakers in the last set”

    but as far as I know,this rule is not specific to Wimbledon. None of the tennis matches have the regular tie-breakers in the last set

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