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By Sunil Gavaskar
Even as the Indian team started to win some games in Australia, better news was coming from USA where Yuvraj Singh is being treated for a tumour. The great news is that the tumour is almost out of the system and hopefully by the time the treatment cycle is complete, it will be out forever.
Yuvraj has shown the temperament that has taken him to the very top in the game and like he has bounced back after being left out of the Indian team it appears that he will bound into the India team sooner than later. What this has shown him is the affection of so many millions of people, not all Indians but from other countries too, who want him to get better and be back to action and delight them again with his power packed performances. This enforced absence from the spotlight will also give him the chance to reflect back on his life, career and realize that while there will always be the odd doubter and critic, the majority are with him and will always be with him. What he will also understand is that the greatest wealth a sportsman or for that matter any person in public life has is the love and affection of the people, and while that does not necessarily translate into putting food on the table it lifts the spirits up like nothing else does. There will be thousands who he will probably never meet in his life, but who will pray for him and who have prayed for him even before this huge 'test match ' started.
These are selfless people who without even hoping to get a glimpse of him in person, leave aside shaking hands or exchanging a few nice words with him, will make some sacrifice so that he does well on the field. This is the same with others in public life, but more so with sportspersons who bring so much joy and also despair with their performances. When a player is young and bursting with energy he has little or no idea how much sporting success can lift a nation’s spirits up and also how a bad performance can cause listlessness in the country. Sure, not everybody follows sport and not everybody follow all the sports but for those who do, an India win gives a burst of energy and a loss is a big dampener. That is why a loss in New Zealand or Australia is felt far more because it happens at the start of the day in India, than a loss in England or South Africa when it’s almost time to go to sleep for most people.
Yuvraj’s illness also brought forth the difference in how we treat those currently playing and those who are retired players. As soon as his ailment became public even the Govt of India, if media reports are to be believed, came up saying that it would pay for his treatment. That the BCCI and his team sponsor would do so was a given. It is here that the disparity comes through.
Quite clearly as people age they will suffer more from some ailment or the other. That is nature's way, and again obviously except for the odd instance the earning potential of sportspeople as they grow older becomes lesser than what it was in their prime playing days. The BCCI however has a limit of how much they will support the treatment for a retired player, but has no such limit for current players. I am not sure how much insurance comes into play here but going by what has happened in the past it does seem that it is better to fall ill or get injured while one is playing than when one is retired.
Have you known of a single Indian player, who has taken treatment even for a fracture of the fingers in India? No, he has to fly to Australia, South Africa, England or Germany for his treatment, which is available in India too and probably better treatment too simply because of his star status in India.
The late Dattu Phadkar, one of India’s favourite all-rounder’s got help from the late Rajiv Gandhi for his heart bypass surgery because he could not get it from his parent body. Admittedly there was not the kind of money there in cricket as is there now. His is not the only case.
Greats like Polly Umrigar, Vijay Hazare also had to look for treatment at their own costs. Umpteen others who played a few Tests for India had to find their own source of funding their treatment. The players then hardly earned anything and had to work elsewhere to earn a living. Today thanks to the IPL, cricket has become a very good career option. There are insurance policies designed for the current players too and that takes care of them when they are injured and thus not able to earn their fees.
Don’t get me wrong. Not for a moment am I saying that the current player should not get the treatment that will help him get back into action as soon as possible. In fact he should get the best attention available. All I am saying is that the former player, who also has put on the India colours with pride and has sweated for India should get the same treatment with no expenses spared like it is for the current ones.