Recognising the need to curb aggressive player behaviour in the wake of a series of on-field spats over the past six months, which ended with ‘Slapgate’ a week ago, the BCCI will put in place a “long-term monitoring and counselling plan” for India’s star cricketers. They will discuss the details once the Indian Premier League is done.
A top BCCI official told HT that a 24-hour counselling hotline, on the lines of professional cricketers in England, was not out of the question, but it was something they would have to think about carefully, keeping cultural differences in mind. “We recognise the need to educate our cricketers in aspects of life other than cricket,” BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Prof Ratnakar Shetty told HT.
“Punishment is not a solution in the long-run, education and sensitive counseling is,” he said. “We need them to develop holistically, help them grow as people, have normal inter-personal relationships, cope with the demands of being in the public eye and media scrutiny from a young age, and deal with the huge money they earn from the ages of 19-20.”
Shetty said that while the BCCI will figure out exactly how they will handle counselling and personality development for the senior cricketers, it is likely to be something along the lines of a programme that will begin for U-19 players at the NCA this June and July. BCCI joint secretary MP Pandove told HT the NCA courses would broadly comprise lessons in general conduct, handling the media, pubic speaking and sessions with psychiatrists, apart from lessons in money management.
Shetty said that following the U-19 camp, the BCCI expected fringe players (basically those not in the national squad at the moment but contracted to the Board) to attend similar sessions at the NCA (in August).
The idea seems to be the need of the hour. An official touring with the U-19 squad to Malaysia told HT how these youngsters worried themselves no end over talking to the presenter on winning MoM awards. “It wasn’t as much about not knowing English; their diffidence had a lot do with the sudden exposure, leading to sudden complexes,” he said.
Sometimes, they believed that the sudden insecurity that came with being in the limelight led also to suddenly aggressive behaviour.
Pandove said the fact that cricket affects the entire country so profoundly made them decide this was needed. “Ours is a cricket-mad country and cricketers are always under the gaze of the pubic. So their conduct (misconduct, to be precise) affects a huge majority and brings a bad name to the sport, and that realisation made us work in this direction.”
The other reason, they said, was that cricket now left youngsters with very little time to pay attention to their academics, which affected their personal growth. Pandove said BCCIwould be “calling in financial experts to help them handle and invest their money,” he said.