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By Sunil Gavaskar
India may not be doing too well on the field in Australia with huge losses in Melbourne and Sydney, but they certainly seem to making the right impact off the field. Even before the first Test was played they attended the India may not be doing too well on the field in Australia with huge losses in Melbourne and Sydney, but they certainly seem to making the right impact off the field. Even before the first Test was played they attended the Bradman oration at the war memorial in Australia's capital, Canberra and that too dressed in formal attire.
How many in that team would have been aware of the importance of the venue and the historical significance is not known, but it is one of the most inspiring and illuminating of places and from the moment one enters, one finds memorials that tell of the sacrifices and the glory achieved by the Australians who fought in the war. It is without doubt one of the finest memorials that one can come across and thanks to the Bradman oration dinner, the Indian players at least managed a visit there. If that was a pleasant surprise what was even more so was the interaction with all other attendees. Indian teams over the years have been notorious for congregating together in a corner at any function and hardly ever exchanging talk with other guests. It is understandable to an extent, since some are socially challenged with language and more crucially after the match fixing saga took place they are genuinely wary of strangers and so do not put up a warm exterior to those who they don’t know and who they are meeting for the first time. It is almost like being once bitten twice shy for them in that aspect. That unfortunately has been misunderstood as being snooty standoffish and unsocial.
Sportsmen, as a rule are more comfortable with their own ilk which is probably true of most professions because of the commonality of interests there. The burden of being ambassadors for the country does not sit easily on most and some are downright unaware of it.
Then the team went one better by wearing pink caps as they posed for photographs. The third day of the Sydney Test has been officially marked as awareness of breast cancer day in memory of Jane McGrath, wife of Glenn and so even the shirts worn by the Australians on the field that day had a pink sponsor logo instead of the red one that is usually seen on their shirts. It was a tremendous gesture on the part of the Indians, since it is an Australian charity and they would have been excused if they had not participated in it. Having done that and won plaudits they will now hopefully look upon such Indian organizations with the same kindness and magnanimity as they did for an Australian one.
In England when Yuvraj Singh foundation had an event to raise funds for the charities it supports, not all in the team turned up though of course all of them landed at a similar event for their skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s foundation dinner earlier on the tour. Of course players are street smart and know better than to displease the skipper, by not attending his charity do but it is really good that they are doing their bit for charity.
The Australian team is very particular about attending awards ceremonies where one of their players is receiving an award. obviously if the team gets an award then the entire team does attend, but it is when even one of them is winning for the entire team to attend shows the kind of camaraderie and mate ship there is in that team. It is for this reason that one seldom hears of any fissures in the Aussie team, though of course there will always be some players who do not get along well with each other.
The genuine joy that they get in a teammate winning an award is to be seen to be believed and while most teams try to copy Aussie methods, this is one aspect with which they will never be able to match the Aussies. The Indian team has recently attended two award functions as a unit and while one was the board awards which is understandable what was surprising is that they also attended an awards event of a TV channel.
One is pretty certain that there was no appearance fees discussed with the channel though that otherwise seems to be the norm for other awards. If a player is not winning an award he will not turn up or even if he is winning he will ask how much the award is worth and if it is worth his while to attend. This is where they can take a leaf out of the Australian book and show mate ship with their award winning teammate. There is somehow a belief that since the sponsor of the award will get mileage the player should be paid clearly forgetting that when they were aspiring youngsters they would gladly attend any function where they would be invited. It is sponsors who keep the game going along with the cricket fans and if players today are making a very good living out of the game it is thanks to the sponsors and the fan who spends money from his pocket to attend matches or get merchandise.
The problem stems from the way that functions are slotted by the team management. There are functions which are called official functions which usually are the functions of the cricket board that the team is touring and the high commissioners or the government’s functions. All other functions despite being accepted by team management are called optional functions, which is where problems arise, since players feel they have the option not to attend and so not one member attends. This has caused plenty of embarrassment for the hosts who has invited guests to meet the team members.
The recent attendance suggests that there could be a welcome change in attitude unless it’s the usual complex of attending foreigner’s functions and not those by their own countrymen.