The after-party hangover

So this is how it goes: Throughout the 40-odd days of the IPL the BCCI encourages, even compels, players to party. Less than a month later, the BCCI serves notice on a bunch of players who went to party, got abused, and stood up for themselves.

[The dichotomy is understandable, if you think of it from a BCCI perspective: it is okay to party as long as the BCCI is making some money off it. Otherwise, not.]

Not to replay an old, tired tune — but here, as in so much else that is wrong with Indian cricket, the problem begins and ends with the BCCI. Anil Kumble nailed it in his recent Hindustan Times column:

Like the art of player management and making sure whatever available talent India has is harnessed properly and maximised. Far too many times for comfort, I’ve been where the current lot of Indian players today are — vilified by all and sundry, having every single thing they do torn apart and then some.

Someone’s got to look at handling both them and the things that come with playing for India, responsibly. There’s the pressure of performance, the pressure of expectations, pressure from a very intrusive media including former players.

These pressures can be overwhelming for a young man, more so perhaps, for a suddenly rich and famous young man coming to terms with his newfound status.

So I think it’s equally important to prepare him to manage life during and beyond cricket.

At the same time, without getting into which cricketer partied too much or drank too much or got into a brawl, or whether anyone did at all, there’s a need to educate young cricketers about their responsibilities. Not that they don’t know what these are but they need help on how to handle themselves with regard to these.

It’s important for the BCCI to ensure that contracted players at least are given not just cricketing infrastructure but life infrastructure. Today’s players need management skills, communication skills, professional media skills — they are, after all, brand ambassadors for the country. Yet, it’s also critical to emphasise the team’s performance and stop either making individuals too important or making or breaking them at the drop of a hat.

Kumble is on the money here — but it is not by any means an original thought. Consider this column from 2008 [the IPL’s inaugural year, in case you need reminding], by Jamie Alter on Cricinfo, where he talks of the pressures on India’s young:

With the win comes an overdose of adulation and big bucks, and there are more distractions today than ever before, Roger Binny, who coached the 2000 winners, points out. Binny says market forces now virtually dictate the game and believes India needs to follow the Australian prototype. “In Australia the development of junior cricketers is based completely within the state programme. Playing in tournaments is then just a part of the process. Their young players are groomed, there are counselling sessions where specialists tell them how to conduct themselves and what to expect.

“These players are too young to take big decisions. The management here should have similar training sessions for our stars. For example, have a marketing or media expert come in and conduct a seminar on how to handle money and all the excess attention.”

Or check out this column I once wrote in context of Sreesanth:

This is exactly why the team needs a good, tough media manager, who can guide the players through the tricky shoals of commenting in public. Most of the players are unused to public speaking, and their lack of expertise leads them to open their mouth wide and gaffe it with their foot. Each time that happens, we renew calls for the appointment of a media manager; as regularly, the BCCI says such an appointment is a “matter of top priority”. This current administration said those exact words, two years ago when Pawar first took over – but in the 24 months since, no more than lip service has been paid to that “priority”, quite likely because the BCCI can’t see in such an appointment anything more than a waste of money. Someone meanwhile needs to take Sreesanth aside and point out to him that since he has enough empirical evidence to quantify what makes for really bad bowling, maybe it is time he shut up and bent his energies to determining what really good bowling is all about; plumping the depths of bad behavior out of a spirit of scientific curiosity is not what he is being paid to do.

The point is that the need for player management has been underscored, repeatedly, any number of times these past few years. Hell, even Ravi Shastri — contracted commentator with the BCCI, member of the IPL governing council, chairman of the National Cricket Academy [my apologies if I have left out a dozen or so of the hats he wears courtesy the BCCI] — spoke of the need for counseling for the young [a very good thing that would be, Ian Chappell said during a curtain-raising discussion on the IPL’s first season, way back when].

And therein lies the rub: they all talk about it. Dalmiya did, in his time. Pawar made that one of the cornerstones of his administration, when he took over. And a decade down the line, we are still talking about something that is not particularly hard to do. Instead, what the BCCI does do, with remarkable consistency, is to send out these mixed signals, exhorting players to party one day, hauling them up for it the next. [And while on all of this, Kadambari Murali makes a very pertinent point in the Hindustan Times].

On a personal note, been occupied with a whole heap of stuff, both professional and personal. Consider this an open thread, folks — for thoughts, comments, links, whatever. Will swing by later in the day. Oh, and I am hosting the live chat on Yahoo today — at 3.30-4.30 pm, here. Make time in your calendar and come on over, let’s chat.

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40 thoughts on “The after-party hangover

  1. You are sitting at a pub and someone comes and starts hurling abuses at you. You first react and then inform authorities about it. Have you committed a crime? The media loved this because after a defeat the easiest stereotype for a cricketer is that of a rich spoilt brat who doesnt care. I have been a cricketer myself in the past (never good enough though) and it takes a cricketer to understand how hard it must be to take such defeats. Just because they are out in the evening doesnt mean that they aren’t hurting. It takes a lot of struggle to get to the top and the players are the first to recognize that.Once in a while they do lose sight of where they came from and how hard they worked to get there. But then, doesnt that happen across professions. That is human and that is completely pardonable,

  2. I rarely disagree with your views, Prem. But, in this case, I think I respectfully beg to differ (at least I think there is a difference).

    It is fine that the players went to the pub/bar/party. It is perfectly fine, unless it was mandated that they should not.

    I completely agree that players need “life skills”

    What I do not like is that they got involved in a brawl. That is what players are not expected to do, even in the worst of situations. That is precisely why the “life” skills are required. But, they should be fined for getting involved in a brawl! That comes independent of whether BCCI is fair or not.

    BCCI is not excused from this incident. They should have long time back gotten involved into such activities, and they are now going to do nothing, but just sending notices (and will probably fine the players).

    But, I fail to understand why the players should be excused from getting involved in a brawl and retaliating to abuses, if they indeed did so.

    • But that’s the thing, Lalit, they did not “get involved in a brawl”. The pub manager is very clear about that, witnesses are clear about that. The facts, as far as they go, are that they went to a pub. That there was a group of drunk fans, who decided to pick on Jadeja. That it went from hazing to downright abuse. That seeing Jadeja struggling to cope, Nehra took up his case and argued with the fans to leave the guy alone. That the fans got even more incendiary. That at this point, Yuvraj stepped in to try and cool things down. That the management intervened and packed the fans off to a different corner of the room, and that they left shortly thereafter. What “brawl”?

      The whole “brawl” story was the media taking a button and sewing a big vest on it, and the BCCI in ridiculous fashion chosing to issue show cause notice on the basis of media reports when a simpler course of action would be to ask the team manager to get the facts and file an official report.

      • Oh.. if they did were not involved in a brawl, then I don’t even support a show-cause notice!

        I mean, it is not for the players to directly explain any and every allegation just because it is in the media; it is for the BCCI to do the fact-finding first, and then go on to explain to the media that there was no brawl!

  3. I am just grateful that our national heroes dont turn up for practice or on match day drunk, or topple off pedalos inebriated.

    But then again, we are institutionally challenged!

  4. As usual, given my responsibility as a troll and chief noisemaker on this blog, I beg to differ.

    Its all fine to invest all responsibility for player behavior onto the BCCI, but where does that put personal responsibility?

    If Rohit Sharma chooses to emulate Yuvraj Singh ahead of his Mumbai/India team mate Sachin Tendulkar. then irrespective of what the BCCI does, that reality is not going to change. And if Yuvraj Singh doesnt feel compelled to change inspite of all the public criticism directed towards him over the years, how does that reflect institutional failure?

    Secondly, peer and public pressure would, logically push the newer crop of players to gravitate towards the work ethic and behavior of the more established and more celebrated players. If that is not the case, where is the disconnect?

    Finally, given the social and familial differences between India and Australia, is it even fair to draw direct comparisons? What works in one scenario may not necessarily work in another.

    Cheers,

    • I have to say I find your point worth considering. With all the systems in place, Australia still produced a Symonds. And if I am not incorrect, none other than Ricky Ponting was going in that direction before he himself found a new way of life. I dont know if CA’s contribution in that was anything significant.

      But what BCCI can do is to bring in systems that will *ruthlessly* terminate such attittudes. Thats where it is at fault, not really *taking care* of people. There was no business to send all these unfit people to WI. If you are not fit, you dont play. You party or drink or do whatever you want, but if you dont show the results, you perish. What BCCI needs to make sure is that there are enough people on the bench who can ensure that the people who gets axed remains axed for a considerable period of time. Do you think Rohit Sharma will emulate Yuvi if he knows for a fact that if he goes out of Indian team, his place may be taken up by an equally competant batsman, and his value may diminish for a considerable time period? I dont think so. For that, it needs to bring in lot of changes in the way it runs its business.

      “And if Yuvraj Singh doesnt feel compelled to change inspite of all the public criticism directed towards him over the years, how does that reflect institutional failure?” – YES, THAT is the institutional failure. He can keep all that attittude, but such a guy should NOT be playing in the team.

      If BCCI can show 20 people with international class who can punch each other out in a given team at any point in time, I would say its responsibility is by and large achieved. If it can’t, then it has to review the way it goes about its business.

      Did it matter to Australia when Symonds went his own way? Not a zilch. Would it have mattered to them if had gone his own way? I dont think so, Hussey might have scored a few more runs in Test Cricket..thats all.

      • JazzyB,

        For the most part, I agree. Couple of points where I differ

        1. If Yuvraj had smashed 6 sixes in an over and been the most fluent batsman in the team, would his attitude still be reason for discussion? If not, why not?

        And if not, isnt it reflective of our attitude rather than an institutional failing?

        2. There are 20 people with international class available – the question is, are we choosing the right mix? Look at our A team or the team touring Zimbabwe. Look at the alternate captains we have had to MS Dhoni – Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir, now Raina. Rohit Sharma was the BP XI captain till the last tour. Look at where Viirat Kohli is in all this. Look at our bowlers too – Munaf, Ishant, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth et al. The talent is there – what is being done to harness it?

        If there is no method to selectoral madness, how can institutions be blamed ( short of pulling the plug on the 5 wise men and installing another set of 5 wise men)?

        Cheers,

        • I think the point is that if Yuvraj had the right attitude, he would be working hard on his fitness and form, and would be must more likely to hit 6 sixes in an over again.

          His form in the past several months has been horrible, his fielding has gone down, and he is unable to take quick singles. All of these are a direct result of his poor attitude.

  5. A few years back I read a story about how NFL drafts (even NCAA recruits) are put through psychological sessions on the perils of money and fame. How financial charlatans would rip them off, how women can trap them (bear a child, pay child support forever)… basically prepare them to stay grounded even as they sign multi-million dollar contracts with their franchise… I’m pretty certain they have similar programs for various other leagues… the dangers of fame and fortune are not lost on true keepers of any game

    Now BCCI (or LKM at least) thinks IPL could become as large if not larger than NFL or any other league in the world… shouldn’t they also ape the various training methods and programs to make sure these ‘stars’ stay grounded? Ah who are we kidding… we all knew BCCI is a pathologically greedy body. Player wellness and welfare – what the hell is that?

  6. Funny what people think they can say after having a drink..

    More funny when the entire national media start debating arguments between two sets of drunkards…

  7. In the Ian Chappell interview with Harsha Bhogle on Cricinfo, there was this classic answer to a question Harsha asked on the players off field adventures and need for curfew.

    Chappell’s response was brilliant – if you have selectors, then as captain there is no need for curfews.

    That though will work only for Australian system I guess considering how , after trying to help Symonds, they had enough.

    Yuvraj is going down the Symonds route, but no way will he be dropped. This ‘ once a star player, always a star player’ bull s**t within the Indian team has to stop. Better late than never.

    Aside from that, I’d so like to know how those ‘ American Indian fans’ would have reacted if someone had questioned their work ethic..

    Out of the WC, and frankly having a drink or two or even three isn’t an issue worth talking about.

  8. prem.. I was at 5 of the 7 IPL parties which happened in Bangalore – I nvr saw a single Indian popular player in those parties except Manish Pandey & Virat Kohli. Mostly non-Indian players used to party all the time, especially South Africans! Maybe they had some ‘private’ parties with cheer-leaders which we never got to know about 😉

    • Yeah, but also, the Indians were mandated to attend parties thrown by the big brass for their friends — like Mallya’s dos for his high fliers. Not for the parties for which the hoi polloi were invited, and charged anything up to Rs 40k for the privilege.

  9. Prem, slightly off topic here, but I notice that a large number of the original reports mentioned 8 players involved in brawlgate, Suresh Raina being the one left out of this show cause notice when it’s finally become official.

    Do you think there’s a chance that
    a) the BCCI actually thinks like you do “players went to party, got abused, and stood up for themselves”, and at first were letting it slide until the Media made a big hoo out of it and they (BCCI) felt forced to act
    b) Raina is left out of the notice because he is technically the Indian Captain now?

    • I think the BCCI was reacting to the media fuss, yes. Note that until the notice was announced, no one had officially complained. Sanjib Biswal then filed a report, but the fact that a notice was to be sent was already announced by then. As for Raina, the sense I am getting is he, like a few others, was merely on the periphery of the argument, and played no part in it.

  10. prem, I too wonder how you are able to dig such passages so quickly. hats off to you for that, and also for stating things so clearly. Considering the diverse backgrounds that the players come from, they do need a guiding hand about how to conduct themselves on the ground and in public. our people too swing very quickly in their adulation of the players fast, one win, they are gods, one loss they are dirt!
    were they partying or just drowning their sorrows there?
    i always feel like asking those who criticize others to go try to face the music at least once before criticizing others!

  11. Since there are two, and possibly more, sides to a story, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Even granting that the Indian players were partying, the question remains: who provoked whom? It’s easy to imagine a situation where someone, hiding behind his anonymity, abused a player. And, players being human reacted. If this is what happened, my sympathies are with the players. If on the other hand, the players threw their weight around and picked up a fight, then they need some stuffing down their throats. Until the full story emerges, we should suspend judgment.

    On the larger issue of whether players can party, I think Ian Chappell nailed it when he told Harsha Bhogle that he didn’t need to impose curfews because there were selectors. If somebody can drink and womanize through the night and still, come out and bowl like Shane Warne or bat like Sobers, should we care about their nocturnal activities? By the same token, people whose performances drop – prime example being Yuvraj – because of all the frolicking, should be given an ultimatum or be dropped. Unfortunately, this will never happen as long as we pick players on reputation.

    • I think the criteria should be based primarily on their on-field performance. What they do in their private lives is nobody’s business. You cannot expect every professional cricketer to turn out to be like an SRT, Dravid or Kumble. There will always be the likes of a Kambli or Yuvraj who will flatter to deceive. If everyone is like SRT, then how does that make SRT into a great player?

    • The sense we get is very clearly that the players were not at fault here. It is the media that converted the whole thing into a brawl. What you had, judging by what I hear, is a bunch of guys ragging Jadeja fairly abusively. Nehra and a couple of others came to his rescue, Yuvraj tried to calm things down, but that is not a storyline TV likes, so it became a brawl, by players who should have been hiding in shame but instead went to a pub to celebrate. And typically, the BCCI picked on a non-issue, since it has neither the inclination nor the nous to really figure out what the real problems are and what to do about it. This makes the board look tough and businesslike, at no cost to them and no effort either.

      • The funniest thing about the whole issue was something I read on a news site quoting the bar owner – “In St. Lucia, we call even arguments at the bar as a brawl”. So, there may have been a brawl, but not in the traditional sense of the word, but of course, who cares to explain things in Indian media.. Brawl it is. Let’s get these guys when they are down.

        • Oh on the same topic how about this.

          According to reports, Jadeja showed no remorse for his disastrous showing in the tournament and celebrated in a pub after the team’s last match.

          One, SK Warne will be pulling his hair apart. He was grooming Jadeja to be an important cog in RR’s wheels and to see the young man’s confidence kicked around by all and sundry must be really painful.

          How senseless can the media be. Prem, as a media person, what is your take on such reports? Can anything be done to prevent such reports appearing in the press? I mean we all hate such reports / news which adds more ‘masala’ than substance.

          Why can’t something be done about it.

          I remember Vishal Dadlani started something similar during the Mumbai attack (http://smallchange.in/). Wish something similar is done both to the print and television media.

          • How the hell is one expected to show remorse? I have a bad day at work, I tend to hit a pub and down a few to put the disaster behind me. The last thing I do, or want to, is brood on it and have it affect me subsequently.

            No, nothing can be done about such reports — it is a function of the times we live in, where there are too many competing channels playing the TRP game, and without the journalistic nous to earn them through good stories, hence dependent on noise-making at the slightest excuse

  12. Aarrgghh.. I still don’t understand what the big deal is, if players go out to bar for a few, after they lost a game. It does not mean a jot. Do the fans want the players to do “penance”, sit and brood in their hotel rooms?? This is the height of hypocrisy. The players are human too, you know? Their performance on the field — for that – they are answerable to BCCI, Team management etc. If they don’t perform, they are gonna be chopped off the team, sooner or later. But a bunch of guys going out to blow off some steam, or just chill a bit — and not “show” disappointment, oh come on!

    • Going to the bar to drown your sorrows is no issue whatever. You are totally right about that, and in this case I think it is the fans who needed to be told a thing or two. That said, players are increasingly getting prone to overdoing the bar thing, to the point where it has a definite, quantifiable impact on both their fitness and on-field performance, and that is perhaps a factor the management needs to work on.

  13. Prem: I dont think our players, whatever background they come from, are dumb enough not to understand that they cannot be seen in a pub ‘relaxing’ after they have disappointed the fans so badly through some below par performance in the field. They dont require a media manager and counsellor to tell them that they have to lie low and at least ‘show’ some disappointment. They have role models in Sachin, Dravid, Kumble. So it is not that they dont know. But that they just dont care any more, which galls. But the show cause notice doesnt serve any purpose. It only diverts the issue of the root cause of the poor performance. A reprimand followed by a cooling off period to get in shape and correct technically is the prescription for some like Yuvaraj, Rohit or even Bhajji (he needs to rethink his role as the lead spinner. he is such a good bowler when he is attacking using flight and spin)

    • I am sorry but I do not understand how going to a bar with a few friends is equivalent to not feeling low after the loss in the WC. Do you mean to say they should sulk and sit inside their hotel rooms? What was done was done on the field – the players will just have to move on to the next series or tournament. It was callous on the part of the “cricket fans” in that club to heckle a bunch of cricketers who were trying hard to come out of their low moment after having been shown the exit. It is bound to touch a raw nerve.

      Not justifying the cricketers’ behaviour here, but then they are human too and are bound to react. The fans were more at fault here.

    • As pissed as i was about the loss, that still does not warrent any fan abusing the cricketers and calling their family members names. All of us have bad days at work and that gives no one any excuse to attack any player.. We as a nation are becoming more and more jingostic and quite frankly do not seem to care for the sport at all.. having said that, it is necessary that the younger cricketers are not carried away by the muck, which seems to have become part of the IPL…

  14. To compare a young cricketer to SRT is like asking a budding physicist to Einstein or Newton.. There are certain things that only a very few in the world are capable of. SRT has always been the exception to the rule. If you wanna call out the players on “hubris” because of this incident, it is ridiculous. Hey, they probably felt as bad as any other Indian fan.. For fans to heckle them in a public place is not correct. Let’s say you are a software engineer and you goofed up with one of your deliverable and you feel terrible about it. That night, you are out on town with a few of your buddies and someone comes along and heckles you for what you did at your workplace, let’s see how you react? I agree with Prem that the players need not have responded at all but it was instigated and they reacted to it.

    The players’ non-performance on the field may have been due to many different reasons and they need to be held accountable for that, but that should not be tied to what(ever) happened at the bar. I am sure BCCI will make a big hue and cry about this bar incident and the media will chase it too, and we’ll all once again miss a golden opportunity to get to the root of our non-performance.

    • Comparing / Having a role model like a SRT or an Einstein or a Picasso is perfectly valid. One may or may not be able achieve those heights but there is nothing wrong in aiming high.

      And we are not talking about emulating cricketing achievements but about a way of living. Nobody is questioning the specific act of going to a bar or getting involved with the drunks in the bar. What is being discussed is the sudden adoption of a lifestyle that hitherto was alien to that individual. Like a guy who takes the first sniff of a hallucinogen and finds that he just has to ask for more. And that is their hubris “unwittingly” please note. From the versions given, it seems that the Yuvraj and Nehra stood up for the younger lads Jadeja and Sharma. If so, then that needs to be commended. But what if the seniors were not around? How would have Jadeja and Sharma handled it? Do they know what to do in such cases? What if instead of mediating, Yuvraj committed a violent act? What if in the brawl someone smashed a glass bottle and hit Rohit Sharma with it? Or Yuvraj? In places like Delhi, waitresses get shot dead for not serving one last drink. And we are not even bringing in banana republics like Colombia where you get shot dead for scoring own goals.

      People in such high profile professions will be subject to heckling – film stars, politicians, even corporate folk. Even after 20 years worth of achievements, SRT keeps getting heckled and provoked whenever he falls early and the team collapses and loses. It happens on national television with Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami leading the pack of talking-head wolves. He doesn’t react, he doesn’t bother about them.

      There is much to learn from it and to say that it is beyond us is to say that there is no space for learning or evolution

  15. A lot of our present day cricketers come from humble backgrounds and do not have the luxury of a good education that people like Kumble or Dravid or Ganguly had. The sudden pace at which they get their fame, the riches, etc take them to their hubris unwittingly. But they do not have to look far for a role model – Sachin Tendulkar. Equally humble background – middle class, educated but just and instant fame, adulation, pressure from the age of 14. To say that SRT has been able to handle it is an understatement. He did have the support of many people including his family but a lot of it no doubt came from his inner strength of character. If SRT can be a role model for learning cricket, can he not be a role model for being a successful professional, any sport and any profession for that matter.

    • I agree entirely, both about the cause and about the role model. Add Dravid, Kumble et al to that mix. The trouble though is, for a kid who had to thumb rides on a bus to suddenly be able to buy a BMW on a whim, he tends to get carried away. And what he sees, and wants to emulate, is not the quiet achievements of the SRTs, but the flashy lifestyle of the Yuvrajs. Case in point is Rohit Sharma — who idolizes Yuvraj to the point of aping his page 3 lifestyle. And it is costing him – increasingly, he drinks too much, parties too hard, sleeps too little and spends diminishing amounts of time working on his game. It is where a good man manager could drag him back onto the rails, and that is precisely what we do not have.

  16. Prem – I was reading Steve Waugh’s “out of my comfort zone” and there he talks about the media training set up, initiated in the early 90’s for their elite players and 2 decades later, we are still contemplating on doing it.

    Importantly — How do you dig out all the stories of, “Way back when” and the related links? DO you have a slave intern or is it the archiving system that you have? Incredible, either way!

    • Yeah, I remember that from his book. It is so obvious a need, and so relatively simple to set up, which is what pisses you off that we still haven’t done any of it.

      About the other? Two things: one is, you read cricket on a day to day basis, and you absorb stuff, so at some point when you are writing about say this particular topic, you recall stuff from the past (i could easily have thrown in a dozen more examples here). A quick search will surface it for you. More structurally, I have this habit of saving what I read, with tags. Typically, when it comes to browsing time, I’ll open say Cricinfo, click on the stories I want to read, open them in different tabs, read some and move on, and some others I’ll save to delicious, earlier, but now to my Evernote account with tabs and, occasionally, my own related notes. No slave intern, mate, but if you do this even for a year, you’ll be surprised how much info you have that can be collated — and I’ve been doing this for like 15 years, so.. 🙂

        • 🙂 Oh hey, if you plan on doing that, it helps to tag extensively: like, a story might be filed under BCCI, players, discipline, IPL, show.cause, player.quotes, and so on. Helps you quickly find what you are looking for when you need it.

          • Thank you. Yes, I am doing that as well. BTW, I was pulling an allnighter here in US eastern seaboard and was hopeful will be able to make the yorker show.. Keeled over 30 minutes before the show! Some day it shall happen. when you move it to 6.00 PM IST

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