Whenever there is a breach in the wall of platitudes around a cricketer, it is time to sit up and take notice. Increasingly, modern players say the expected things in the expected way so everybody is happy. Yet, occasionally, a desire to make sense triumphs, as it did with Yuvraj Singh in a recent interview.
By Suresh Menon
Whenever there is a breach in the wall of platitudes around a cricketer, it is time to sit up and take notice. Increasingly, modern players say the expected things in the expected way so everybody is happy. Yet, occasionally, a desire to make sense triumphs, as it did with Yuvraj Singh in a recent interview. Even Virender Sehwag, the one Indian player who does not understand what political correctness means has not said something so direct, so unambiguous and so stunningly honest.
It is worth quoting Yuvraj in some detail here: “I see a lot of youngsters like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who are very talented and flamboyant. As a senior I tell them not to make the same mistakes I made, and try to guide them to a better tomorrow. When I began playing, you could say the game was changing, the distractions were beginning. Now the distractions are too much and my advice to the younger guys is mostly not to be distracted by what is happening outside and to concentrate on the game.
“They don't listen, especially Rohit and Virat. [Suresh] Raina still listens a little bit, but Rohit and Virat always argue with me. I don't blame the youngsters for not listening, because a lot of times Sachin or Sourav or Kumble said something to me and I said ‘What do they know?’ As a senior, I think it's our duty to help the junior guys. Hopefully they'll listen, if not to me, to other players.”
Yuvraj went on to speak about greed and an ever-expanding list of must-haves from houses to cars and partying at the cost of missing practice and the need to have a balance.
“I fear for the youngsters. If there were fifty percent distractions in cricket 10 years ago, today they are at one hundred percent. Any youngster can fall out anywhere. Especially since the IPL, a lot of youngsters, particularly in first-class cricket, focus on the IPL, which is a very bad thing. The players feel that they are not good enough in international cricket and they can survive in the IPL.”
That it has taken a Yuvraj Singh to give breath to the unspoken is amazing enough. That such clear-headedness and direction-pointing has not come from the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid is vaguely disappointing. Part of the reason for the greatness of these two players is that they have been self-regulating mechanisms, without any need for an outside force to get them to do the right thing. Not everybody is like that, and had they spoken up about the conflicts young players face, it is possible that a corrective could have been put in place.
That young players, even if they have played for the country, need to be mentored has been a burden of this column for a long time now. Yuvraj has spoken about the debt he owed to the likes of Ganguly, Tendulkar, Kumble and others, although it took him a few years to agree with the seniors.
Currently dropped from the Indian team, Yuvraj himself was considered the bad boy of Indian cricket, distracted by the attractions around it and liable to sink his enormous gifts in a vat of such attractions. So when he speaks of the possible effects of fame and fortune on a young man, he speaks from experience. The gamekeeper who was once a poacher is always most effective at the job.
It doesn’t actually matter who among the players has been the first to raise the important issue in public. The fact is that it is out in the open now. Yuvraj has done Indian cricket a service by saying it like it is.