One of the beauties of a challenge is that it has an opportunity hidden in it. At the moment I am in a similar situation where a challenge is thrown at me and I've to turn the same into an opportunity. The challenge is to make a comeback into the Indian team and the opportunity is to up my skills and that is what is keeping me occupied these days. After IPL, I took a few days off and went to Dubai for a few days to relax, away from all the action. On my return, it has been practice, training, yoga, gym and lots of introspection. This exercise is not only restricted to my game but more often than not spills into other uncharted territories as well. I will tell you how.
The academy where I train is called Lala Amarnath Cricket Academy, which is run by coach Sanjay Bharadwaj. It is based at a government school in Northwest Delhi's Ashok Vihar area. Once a friend of mine visited the academy and remarked that it is ironical that in a school compound which educates children from poor families for a monthly fees of R100, IPL stars like Amit Mishra, Unmukt Chand and Gautam Gambhir practice and later discuss IPL riches! It was shocking as I sheepishly smiled back with a sense of guilt yet willingness to do something to fill in the gap.
The other day when I was practicing at the school a few of them came along seeking autographs and photographs. They were there for extra classes as the school was closed for summer holidays. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised that a government school was conducting extra classes whereas the general perception is that educational standards are not that high in the state-run schools.
My sport, cricket, is going through a tough phase at the moment. My team has done well which I am sure will heal a few wounds but I think the overall credibility will be restored with a few more efforts. In the overall context I think education plays a huge part in a cricketer's life as well.
Let me cite you an example. An India cricketer went to a reputed bank to withdraw money. He wanted to use ATM but could not, as he struggled to follow instructions. He then wanted to withdraw through a bank cheque but after 16 to 17 attempts he couldn't give the exact signature as they existed in bank records. I asked him why he could not, he said he got nervous signing a bank cheque! While it may seem trivial to all of you but I exactly know why he felt that way.
There are many cricketers whom if you put in a situation outside a cricket field, they'd struggle to find their feet. I think it is a combination of lack of education and personality development.
I'm lucky that Hindustan Times came along with "You Read They Learn" initiative. Through this mission they try to send underprivileged children to school. So far 10,812 children have been put in classrooms and most of them in government schools. Well done to their team. Now HT is taking it to the next level.
It has initiated the 'Enroll a Child' project in Delhi-NCR. For a start, whenever you are on the internet just spend 30 seconds to get on to www.youreadtheylearn.com and click on the icon 'Enroll a Child' on top left. A small pop-up window will invite you to be a volunteer. This is the first step in making a difference, please do that. I will be with you hand in hand in making a difference and filling the gap that my friend spoke about.