I love ‘democracy’ — you actually get a mid-week holiday to go vote! Fully intend to enjoy the unexpected mid-week break, as soon as I am done with this post. 🙂
Courtesy a Cricinfo conversation, I stumbled on a Ray Jennings motivational video prepared for the RCB. As under. In passing, with yesterday’s win, RCB joins Delhi Daredevils in the list of IPL teams that started off slow but will, IMHO, get better as the tournament progresses and the players bind once more into a ‘team’.
Elsewhere, Jacob Oram becomes the latest cricketer to opt out of Test cricket so as to conserve his energies for ODIs and T20.
“The last few years have shown that my body cannot handle the strains and stresses that come with being an allrounder, playing all three formats for up to ten months a year,” Oram said. “For the sake of longevity I have had to make a decision that will decrease my workload, so I can concentrate all my efforts on the shorter forms of the game.
“The decision to choose limited-overs cricket over Test cricket has a lot to do with playing opportunities. The Black Caps play a lot more limited-overs cricket than Tests, and there’s also the opportunity to continue playing in world events such as the World Cup, World T20 and Champions Trophy, as well as the IPL.”
Cue more alarmist talk about cricketers turning ‘mercenary’, I’d imagine. Greg Baum’s diatribe, in fact, anticipates this event and suggests that as ever more cricketers are seduced by that dirty word, ‘money’, and as national duty takes a back seat in consequence, the game will lose its fans.
Go, freelance away, but don’t be surprised if in a while, no one cares, and if in another while, because no one cares, there is no one to watch. The whole sporting fantasy depends on the conviction of fans that the stars are playing for something other than money; that they are playing for you, me and the idea of us. But the fantasy becomes less easy to believe if the stars were playing for someone else last week, and will be playing for someone else again next week, and in the meantime make it clear that they begrudge the interlude in national colours because it jeopardises their earning potential.
An interesting argument — but one, IMHO, that won’t wash. I wonder if those who follow soccer, to cite one instance, care overmuch for the size of Christiano Ronaldo’s pay packet. He has, in a brief career, moved from CD Nacional where he debuted to Sporting Clube de Portugal, from there at age 18 to ManU for a £12.24 million fee. So when he jumped ship and transferred to Real Madrid for a cool £80 million, did the fans desert him en masse, turning up their collective nose at this display of vulgar ‘money-grubbing’? Did it bother them that he was not “playing for something other than money”?
The hell it did — when Ronaldo plays I watch, because of the compelling skills he puts on display. And I frankly don’t give a damn whether he is doing it in the red of ManU or the white of Real.
Journalists routinely sneer at such ‘vulgarity’. Yet, offer that same journalist a three-fold hike in his salary to join a rival paper and see how fast he jumps [But of course, when we do it, it is with lofty motives, “like wanting to better deploy our skills and experience in a fresh arena that provides more scope for our talents”].
The fact is that a sportsman’s career is incredibly finite. To be really good at his chosen sport, the player has to make the choice — that is, gamble — very early in life. Long, hard hours of practice allied to whatever natural talent he has just might make him good enough to break into the big time. When he does — if he does — he has about eight, ten years tops to make the most of it. And every one of those days is beset by doubts and fears: Will someone with better skill sets come along to supplant him? Will his own skills mysteriously desert him for no reason he can pinpoint? Will an injury sustained on the field of play put premature period to his career?
I became a journalist at age 30, and have been doing this for 20 years now. I can conceivably go on doing this for the next 30, provided my typing fingers and my mind continue to function [and some would say ‘mind’ is an additional, but by no means essential, requirement]. It is difficult for me, therefore, to understand the fears that plague a young man who knows, going in, that he will be redundant in his chosen field by age 30, 35 tops.
But maybe it is time to try. Maybe it is time to see things through the eyes of an Oram, a Flintoff, a Symonds. Maybe it is time to understand that this situation would not have come about if those who govern the game had spared some thought for the players, instead of making them dance on every available lap while the ‘nation’ — or more accurately the board — pockets the lion’s share of the revenue.
Earlier, the player had no choice. He played when and where he was asked to play, he took whatever the home board in its benevolence paid him and when he got hurt, he sat at home and sweated, not knowing if he would recover sufficiently to be able to play earn again, not knowing if his board would pick him even if he attained full fitness. Like the proverbial hamster, he hit the treadmill and he ran until he could run no more — and then, in what for everyone else would be the prime of life, he retired to his home to spend the rest of his life in an extended anecdotage, chewing the cud of memory and driving his family and few friends nuts [or, if he was very lucky, got a gig on television where he got to talk of how great he had been to a wider audience].
Today, that player has a choice. Multiple choices. And he is taking them — so, mate, just suck it up. And don’t worry about the fans — as a full house showed in Hyderabad the other day, they don’t give a hoot in hell that ‘Symmo anna’ [or for that matter Adam Gilchrist, their ‘Gilly Bhai’, showed great foresight in ending his national career while still at his peak, so he could earn far more money for just a few weeks of work each year] has become a “money-grubbing” mercenary; what turns them on is the electricity he produces on the field of play.
In passing — an interesting read.
PS: Back tomorrow, after the break.