Crossing the line not new for Pak cricketers
For India cricketers, life is good — adoring fans treat them as royalty and in terms of the money, one decent season in the IPL takes care of most essentials. Enough to afford a Hummer, a penthouse in a swish-gated colony, a holiday in Europe, plus other sweeteners termed fringe benefits in tax, writes Amrit Mathur.india Updated: May 25, 2010 01:26 IST
For India cricketers, life is good — adoring fans treat them as royalty and in terms of the money, one decent season in the IPL takes care of most essentials. Enough to afford a Hummer, a penthouse in a swish-gated colony, a holiday in Europe, plus other sweeteners termed fringe benefits in tax.
But there is a doosra in this too. The stars pay a huge price to acquire the goodies. Success is not easy, it requires what the Aussies call years of hard yards and among the millions who slog to make it, only a few luck out. And even the ones who climb to the top have to face unfriendly fast bowling, absorb heaps of stress and, worst of all, lose their freedom to have a drink at the pub or party like the young men they are.
Every other kid in India wants to play cricket but not all are happy about embracing sainthood in the process. Playing for India brings means intense media scrutiny, insane restrictions and crazy criticism. Yuvraj Singh, a seasoned pro, is able to take all this in his stride but a young, inexperienced Rohit Sharma finds the tension difficult to handle.
Compared to the India players, the Pakistanis go through much more. Coach Intikhab Alam thinks they are mentally retarded and lack education. Captain Shahid Afridi, a stalwart who mistook a cricket ball for an apple, was equally scathing in his criticism, he testified that players were more focussed on girls than on cricket.
Internal turmoil of this kind is not unusual in Pakistan, which has a long and colourful history of players crossing the line. In this field, Shoaib Akhtar is a lifetime achiever who can write a masterly book called, “Akhtar's Art of Indiscipline”. Incidentally, he is planning to start a fielding academy, which is ironical, considering how he moved in the field.
Mohammad Asif is another with an impressive track record. He has done drugs, fought battles in his dressing room and to his credit taken the battle to the other camp.
His fighting spirit surfaced when he fearlessly sledged Shane Watson, many times his size, and called him a “bloody white” in a fit of rage.
Others, far cleverer, have gone to war against their teammates. There are reports that senior players intrigued against Mohd Yousuf and plotted his downfall. Shoaib Malik, captain till yesterday, suddenly became so unpopular he became a termite that was threatening Pakistani cricket.
While the players appear to be deeply fragmented, they occasionally display an admirable spirit of partnership when it comes to messy allegations of match-fixing/spot-fixing. Recent reports confirm the legacy pioneered by Salim Malik is now being progressed by Kamran Akmal and exported by Danish Kaneria. India cricketers are a clean lot in comparison. Their guilt is limited to bad technique against the rising ball, sloppy fielding and dodgy fitness.