Cricketers show the art of remaining in the sports limelight
The other day social media had carried what to many a sportsperson and sports fan must have been an unnacceptable sight. It was a picture of Tom Joseph, the ace volleyballer, a former international player and one who has served India and Kerala with distinction, at the ticket counter of the stadium, buying a ticket for entry to the national volleyball championship which was on in Kozhikode. These are days when anything coming in the social media need not necessarily reflect reality but if this incident had really happened then it is something sports authorities could have avoided. Purchasing a ticket may not be a big deal but could this distinguished sportsperson have not been spared this, considering his services to the sport. Such a visible personality, Joseph should in the least have been led in and perhaps seated as a dignitory if not given a red-carpet welcome.
Members of his ilk deserve that little dignity more than anybody else. Players need to be treated with the status of a VIP as Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore would insist. That is why not all sportspersons in this country are equals. Most of them fade out, some disappear without a trace from the scene and few who yearn to be in touch, are left to rue over such unwelcome happenings.
Some such thoughts come to mind when one juxtapose this episode with the life and experience of cricketers, particularly those who had in their playing time earned even a small place in the minds of fans. Far from being a forgotten lot, they seem adept in the art of keeping themselves in the domain, so to say, with little adjustments. True, no sportsperson can forever be seen in action. They too have a limited career-span. But switching tracks can prove wise and that is where cricketers have shown the ability. Some turn to commentating on the game and do well like for instance Sanjay Manjrekar. A few have been dabbling in administration like Sourav Ganguly and a rare gem like Sachin Tendulkar has taken to public service like a fish to water.
As an MP, Tendulkar may perhaps not be seen always in the hallowed settings of the parliament but he is still there in sports canvas as source of inspiration at one venue to many up and coming talents or taking up a cause or two connected with sports in another. If he had the cricketing skill that surpassed the best in the world then Tendulkar has showed he has in him the capability to show the other side of his life too with equal ebullience. More importantly Tendulkar is still heard and the aura around him is intact.
What additionally heartens a cricket fan is that their heroes after their phase of performance on the cricket field use their fame and reach to provide not only good insights of the sport but also stretch out to support other sports in the country.Sachin's association with the Kerala Blasters team in the ISL is well known as Ganguly's passion for football and his involvement in this sports back home in Kolkata. The point is they remain in the public eye and their statements evoke interest and discussions. As when they pen their books, thrown in with all they had seen and heard in their careers with enough juice added. The result is an overwhelming ovation for the efforts and a guarantee for the book to turn a best seller.
Tendulkar showed the way with his 'Playing it my way: My autography' and Ganguly will soon earn encomiums for his 'A century is not enough' judged by the pre-release headlines he has earned. Both have delved deep into the happenings in Indian cricket during their times and not missed Greg Chappell's contentious era as Coach. The great Australian, a foremost cricketer of his generation, for all his abilities clearly had a stormy time dealing with the Indian cricketers. This much was clear even then in the early 2000 period when media did its bit to pounce on the leaks from the dressing rooms. But years later now when the incident gets endorsed by the two leading lights of Indian cricket then the impact can be imagined. Tendulkar and Ganguly that way have added another facet to their cricketing careers with their engaging observations on the sport. Both these stalwarts may not be flashy with a bat anymore but that does not take away their status as icons. The shine remains.
Manjrekar is another ex-India cricketer who retains his appeal now as an engaging commentator on television.He may not be on the same pedestal as Tendulkar or Ganguly but Manjrekar was always known in his playing days for his penchant for perfection. His commentaries are also distinct as are his interviews. Experience has added quality to his efforts before the mike and raised his popularity ratings. The writing bug bit him too soonafter and the 'Imperfect' that he had come out with showed him in a new light. Like the others he too has his observations that demanded interest. The way for instance he portrayed Mohd Azharuddin, the former Indian skipper, a stylish batsman and one later to get consumed in scandals, brought to fore the softer side of the Hyderabadi, which not many would have known. The point is not whether he had succeeded in describing the cricket of his era but Manjrekar certainly has done enough to give his famous Sir name an extra polish with his new found talent with the pen.
Remaining in the public eye or memory is never easy for sportspersons. It is an art which cricketers at least are learning to master. But then cricket is such a sport of extremes in India, where a victory is a national euphoria and a defeat akin to a catastrophe. It helps when there is so much of passion and following.. Will we ever be able to see stalwarts of other sporting disciplines, like Tom Joseph or Jaishankar Menon or I M Vijayan or P T Usha and many others in similar light? Today we have seen the advent of biopics on sports personalities. The recent one on footballer Sathyan holds the promise of hope for many others. Surely they have to be methods to keep the names of sports stalwarts perenially shining. They deserve this little honour.