Sure, they are being paid well and their future is secure with the many avenues available, but there is a need to educate them better on the exploits of their predecessors so that they fully realise the kind of effort and sacrifices it takes to make a successful cricketing career.
We have heard stories about Virender Sehwag not knowing who Vinoo Mankad was in 2005. A few years earlier, an India fast bowler identified Dr W G Grace as K S Ranjitsinhji while visiting a former cricketer’s home in Mumbai.
Many of the young IPL players have seen Sunil Gavaskar around in his capacity as commentator. But how many of them know the true exploits of India’s original little master one shudders to guess.
The BCCI has the means to publish a book on Indian cricketers. The present Honorary Secretary, Sanjay Jagdale, is a voracious reader and he would do well to spearhead this project.
Over the years, I have come across some inspiring and touching stories worth sharing.
Raj Singh Dungarpur, the late BCCI president never tired from recalling how Vinoo Mankad made it despite troubled times at home in his younger days. Many a time, he spent the night on Chowpatty beach only to make it much before schedule for his Pentangular game for the Hindus at the Brabourne Stadium, where he freshened up to meet the challenges of the day. His teammates kept wondering why he was dressed and ready much before them.
While interviewing former India wicketkeeper Budhi Kunderan (who died in 2006), he told me that he played his first Test match — against Australia at Mumbai in 1960 — with borrowed gloves. “I did not own a pair of wicketkeeping gloves. The old one, which I used, did not have much protection. A few days before the Test, I went around asking clubs in Azad Maidan for a pair of gloves to borrow. But, they all said that they have their club games coming up,” Kunderan told me.
Kunderan then knocked on the door of Naren Tamhane, the man who he replaced in the India team. Hear it from the man himself: “Naren felt sorry for me and let me borrow his old practice gloves. To me, those were the best gloves I ever had.”
How many young India players know that national selector Narendra Hirwani endured hour-long bicycle journeys just to have a net in Indore before shifting to a room at the Nehru Stadium where he lived his cricketing dream.
Vinod Kambli may have given the impression that he loved the good life when he played for India, but what also should be remembered are the crowded train journeys he undertook from his Kanjurmarg home to the various maidans, gymkhanas and stadiums in Mumbai, carrying a huge kit bag.
Sachin Tendulkar too did not have all the luxuries. This is what he said in 2004 while talking about a practice match at the Wankhede Stadium before his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai in 1988: “It was a fresh, green wicket and Raju Kulkarni (India pacer) must have thought I was being too smart by not wearing a helmet. I was wearing my Mumbai under-15 cap. Raju started bowling bouncers, which I ducked. Till today, he probably doesn’t know that I did not wear a helmet because I did not have one.”
Indian cricketers have made it to the wealthy strata of society thanks to the cash-rich IPL. Good for them. But they need to get richer in a way that won’t reflect in their bank balance — history of the game and its players.