Monday, 2 April 2007

What Ails Former Cricketers?

When two defeats have been forced down the throat of your country and a third looks imminent, when the World Cup hopes of your motherland hangs on balance, when a beleaguered batch of cricketers are desperately seeking words of support and encouragement from their idols -- this is clearly not the right time for someone like Michael Holding and Andy Roberts launch into a tirade against Brian Lara. Coming it from the cricket-mad fans is understandable but from past masters like them? INEXCUSABLE.

Roberts lambasted Lara ahead of the crucial tie against Sri Lanka which the hosts duly lost, accusing the captain -- coach Bennette King too -- of dominating selection process. Roberts was particularly irked by Jerome Taylor’s omission against New Zealand. Under-pressure to stay afloat, Lara was quick with his riposte before sanity prevailed and he sought an apology for his outburst against Roberts.

Holding too joined the Lara-lashing brigade even though it didn’t surprise me. So many former greats have lost their marbles in the commentary box and Holding too needs to mouth craps to keep the circus going.

"Lara has to step aside, not necessarily as a player, but as captain. We haven't seen an improvement when he has taken over the captaincy. Everyone knows he's a great batsman but that's not what it takes to lead a team. I can't even say he is a good captain tactically,” he said. When? In the middle of a World Cup!

I don’t have any problem with the text or the tone; it’s just the occasion which pains me.

And that prompts me to think what ails the former cricketers?

At times I wonder how they fall prey to the headline- hungry demon that resides inside them. In their desperation to be relevant in a cruelly contemporary world, which has little time for past heroes, they end up doing silly things. And I’m also convinced that envy, that green-eyed monster, burns bright inside past cricketers. Despite on-field heroics, at the end of the day they are human just like us, all flesh and blood.

The same fame which took them a lifetime to win is now available just for a knock or a spell. The abject poverty, which plagued their early career, throughout for some, is now a thing of the past and the present lot virtually mints money and lives life king-size. Of late, cricket has learnt how to take care of its practitioners, at least in the international level, and that’s probably too much to bear.

So, whenever someone like Roberts, who earns his bread as a curator-cum- selector these days, meets Lara (who resides in a palatial mansion atop a hill in Port of Spain) in a get-together and puts his arm around his neck, you can smell something burns somewhere.

Sense of timing is traditionally the hallmark of great batsmen. No wonder, Holding and Roberts earned their stripes not with the willow but with cherry.

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