(by Raj Narayan)
A recent news report about BCCI wanting to provide alternate career options to cricketers set me thinking. What would cricketers be good at…other than playing cricket that is. One cannot readily recall them officiating in cricket matches at the local level. Barring S. Venkataraghavan there hasn’t been a single Test cricketer from India who turned up in black-and-white at the highest level. Most first-class cricketers hold day jobs, but hardly anyone has excelled at them.
Cricket being their sole identity, these players have no choice but to stick with the game in one way or another. The easiest is to turn administrators despite the fact that none have any prior experience of administrating even a team of eleven. The next best is to turn to commentary, where most of them get paid for stating the obvious on television. A few that do have a contrarian view hold on to it for dear life because the BCCI can be vicious – ask Harsha Bhogle for details!
Then there are many odd jobs that these men can land in their cricketing afterlife. Some take up managerial roles with state associations, others are liaison officers while still others become ground curators, without having any qualification to perform these myriad roles with any degree of serious impact.
Ever the sensitive soul, Rahul Dravid has taken the lead in getting the BCCI to provide cricketers with alternative career choices through focused training programs. Tufan Ghosh, chief operating officer at the Bangalore-based National Cricket Academy, suggests that the project would not only train cricketers but also act as a facilitator for campus interviews where they can land good jobs.
A noble thought indeed. But, the question remains… what would a First Class cricketer or even a club cricketer be looking to do after devoting say a decade of his life to the game? A typical scenario in Bangalore is this:
- The budding cricketer takes up coaching at one of the numerous academies that have sprung up ever since the IPL turned into such a money spinner
- The cricketer (or his over-ambitious parents) aspires directly to play for some IPL team and sets his sights on the Karnataka Premier League as a road to glory
- Some others take the tougher route and look to stake a claim for the State side from where they seek an entry into the T20 arena
- Hardly one per cent of those who start off on these two parallel routes reach either of the two destinations
- Once they reach either of these, the next step is to play for their state or their IPL teams. On both these occasions they spend time playing most of the year
- Most players who do make the cut into either the state team or one of the IPL franchises find it tough to stay put as a year later many more join the wannabe list
- This is the precise juncture where the players suddenly realize the need for an alternate profession
The question now is what can the BCCI do to start this process early? What can they do to make these young starry-eyed aspirants realize that Sachin Tendulkar is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon and it took a Prithvi Shaw three more decades to enter the limelight? Can they offer psychological coaching and mentoring to toughen those who might not make it? Would it make sense for them to create parallel processes that helps them turn professional, even if they quit cricket aged 21?
While the intent behind the BCCI decision is to be appreciated, methinks there is a lot more thought that needs to go into the matter. Because we aren’t talking about aspiring superstars just in Bangalore. Take one look at the Maidans in Mumbai or the gullies in Chennai and one would realize that every player kid holding a bat wants to be Virat Kohli and every boy with a red cherry wants to hurl it faster than Jasprit Bumrah.
If the administrators can think up of a scholarship scheme like the NIS Patiala where selected few are trained in the game as well in the game called life, there would be many more parents who may stop slave-driving their children or alternatively scaring them away from sport.
And whatever it is that the BCCI does can be replicated across other sport – just ask the upcoming stars of kabaddi!