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Money comes only to the ?blessed?

My point of view is that cricket is damn lucrative, but only for the 11 out of a billion who actually make it to Team India, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 11:40 IST

 

Padoge likhoge banoge nawab, kheloge khudoge banoge kharaab” was what most of us were often told while growing up. I think this adage is soon going to be part of an ancient past.

In the new India, ambitious fathers (and mothers) of newborn sons already have a “foolproof ” career option in mind. Their precious child will be a cricketer. If not a Tendulkar, then a Pathan.

For most people, it isn’t just the money, there’s also the mesmeric pull and glamour of being a cricketer in a cricket-crazy nation. Many reason, you can’t go wrong with cricket. If he doesn’t make enough playing, he’ll make it up with adverts.

Gone are the days of parents forcing kids to be doctors or engineers. My fellow cricketers and I have heard this so often that we figured that almost everyone believes two things: One, that cricket is damn lucrative and two, the returns are far greater than the work put in.

Well, from my point of view, it’s great being a cricketer but conditions apply! It’s great to get paid to play, doing something most of us would do for free but the money is great only if you’re one of the blessed, the 11 out of a billion who actually make it to Team India.

Otherwise, millions dream of wearing National colours but don’t even make first-class level. They spend all their adolescence and youth sweating it out under an unforgiving sun and ignoring everything else, including studies, hoping to be among that blessed XI.

Sometimes a dream can be an obsessive goal with an end in sight, sometimes, the dream may no longer be a dream but you’ve left yourself no other option but to soldier on even as the mirage gets more blurred, even in your imagination. And finally, many realise that playing for India isn’t possible but carry on in the hope of getting a decent job through sports quota somewhere.

Most cricketers know nothing but cricket. Fifteen-odd years at school and college gets you a degree and generally a job, but the same number on the cricket field guarantees zilch.

And what’s worse, most organizations have done away with their sports quota and cricket teams. First-class cricketers across India share the same plight. They’re struggling big time, unlike here in England, where county players (despite cricket not being as big as football) do very well too.

In England, whether or not anyone plays cricket, the culture is such that they start working as soon as they’re old enough to earn. Either a part-time job at Tescos or something else, anything goes. In India, middle-class kids would rarely be caught working counters or waiting tables. There isn’t a job problem here and all the 16-year olds on my club’s junior team are working parttime. So they’re not solely dependent on cricket for a living.

In India, you either play or go the usual routine. Actually, I can’t even imagine what’s happening to mil lions who’ve never even got to firstclass level. Let’s be honest here. You spend decades training before firstclass level and most don’t earn a paisa all those years.

Then, just spare a thought for the career span of an earning cricketer -- about a decade? If he isn’t fouled out through injury that is! There are just no guarantees. So with no other qualification, you have to make enough in a very short span to last a lifetime. And therefore, most that make the cut quite rightly try and make hay while the sun shines.

Over the years, I’ve heard several disparaging remarks on the amount Indian players make. I don’t know why people carp. Any of the top XI professionals in their field in India would probably make as much. So why envy a cricketer’s earnings? They’ve gone through the grind, taken huge chances and got there against all odds. If the odds are stacked, the returns are generally substantial.

But is it worth for a kid from an average middle-class family to take that chance? It’s a tough call. I believe you should chase your dreams. But it’s an unforgiving world. So I suggest, keep a backup handy.

Don’t dismiss that degree.


This is the third year running that the writeris writing for HT about life in England over the cricketing summer. He can be reached on googly1909@yahoo.com

First Published: Apr 30, 2006 10:55 IST