There?s no time to let hair down | india | Hindustan Times
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There?s no time to let hair down

There is a feeling that players have a rocking time on a tour and that they are constantly in the party mode. This impression couldn't be more wrong -- it is a huge wide ball. All tours are tough, more so Australia because the opposition is of genuine quality and not a popat side, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2003 01:25 IST

There is a feeling that players have a rocking time on a tour and that they are constantly in the party mode. This impression couldn't be more wrong -- it is a huge wide ball.

All tours are tough, more so Australia because the opposition is of genuine quality and not a popat side. Add to this pressure, excessive expectations from home where each one of India's millions wants miracles to happen.

On a tour, players are exceedingly busy playing, or training/preparing to play or travelling to play. There is no free time, and even on a non-match day trainer King waits for them in the gym to ensure that the required strength/stability/aerobic sessions are logged in. So, cribbed a player: Koi chhodta hi nahin hai.

Apart from the sheer physical strain, a tour is demanding because life is regulated and regimented. It is a unique existence where players are seemingly imprisoned in an artificial world, removed from reality but yet exposed, left naked and vulnerable.

Cricketers anyway are high strung and stressed out. They worry about hundreds of things. Over dinner one evening, a junior player remarked casually that after four weeks, Australia had been a seen-nothing-done nothing tour for him.

To which his more experienced colleague, looking up briefly to interrupt his mobile conversation, replied: This is nothing. Just wait -- even after three months you will see nothing except the hotel, ground and airport.

Missing out on tourist spots is only one aspect of the cricket-centric and cricket-restricted life of players. Everything they do is connected to the game, even in the safety of their hotel rooms most end up watching cricket videos. Players eat, sleep, dream and talk cricket, their conversation dominated by concerns about form, career prospects and the reputations of others.

In their cricket ratings Rahul bhai is on top for focus, Hayden for tadi (short leg par dar lagta hai), Sachin for the weight of his runs.

Very often, issues related to money and financial security occupy the minds of players. Which is why bat contracts/personal endorsements are discussed and options of club/county cricket in England weighed carefully.

Big boys talk serious money but others, fringe players below cricket's poverty line, struggle for survival. Said one player: “It's a mistake to think all players are rich.

“Till six months ago I had a Rs 5000 job. Many good Ranji players have no jobs, no money, no contracts. And no time -- the schedule is so tight I can't find dates for my shaadi!”

Touring abroad is not just a slog, there are compensations too. Players enjoy the space and annonymity of foreign countries, happy they are not hounded by fans or smothered by attention.

They are surprised to see the Australians having a drink in the bar, Ponting getting a snack from a fast food outlet, Gilchrist feeding his kid in the hotel, none of which is possible for them in India.

The current lot has adjusted better compared to previous teams, the boys travel well and are more relaxed.

But this is as far as it gets.

Beyond a point the pressure of cricket takes over. And from this there is no escape.