Cricket

Indian cricket stars' lockdown diaries: How players past and present are dealing with social distancing 

  • Austin Coutinho
  • April 26th, 2020
  • 9:38:18 IST

Today’s cricketers are usually a hyperactive lot. They are busy either practising or playing matches — Tests, one-day-internationals, T20 internationals or some T20 league — through the year. One wonders therefore how they are coping with the havoc that the coronavirus outbreak is causing and their being consigned to enforced lockdowns in their homes. Of course, one can only sympathise with cricket buffs who have got so used to watching live action throughout the year and now have to make do with blasts-from-the-past on YouTube and Prime Video.

Benjamin Stiller, the American comedian and TV host, says, “I have a lot of nervous energy. Work is my best way of channelising that into something productive, unless I want to wind up assaulting the postman or the gardener.” That could be the case with cricket players too; where and how do they expend their abundant nervous energy?

Virat Kohli tells us that Anushka [Sharma; his actress wife] and he were lucky to have escaped to their farmhouse on the outskirts of Mumbai just before the nationwide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March. MS Dhoni, along with his wife Sakshi and daughter Ziva, are at their farmhouse on the outer reaches of Ranchi. Yuvraj Singh is in his Gurgaon apartment, with an in-house gym, theatre etc. Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar are ensconced in their sprawling fortresses in Worli and Bandra respectively, and we are told that legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar (in a new, bearded avatar) has socially distanced himself and is staying at his parental home in Dadar, Mumbai.

Illustration by Austin Coutinho

Illustration by Austin Coutinho

Other star players — from India and overseas — it is hoped, are with their families and are safe. Despite the lull over the last month or so, there have been some lively cricket conversations taking place over the social media, between players, that have kept cricket fans entertained. The next best thing to watching a cricketer tonking the ball, in my opinion, is to eavesdrop on a player recounting interesting tales from the dressing room, narrating personal yarns and of course, revealing little, unknown quirks of his/her teammates.

There was a lively online chat last week between Gavaskar and the former Pakistani opener and commentator Rameez Raja. In it, the Li’l Master spoke of how Imran Khan, former skipper and now Prime Minister of Pakistan would get annoyed with K Srikkanth, the former India swashbuckler, in one Test series in Pakistan. The latter would play audacious shots over cover, mid-wicket and over the straight field. He would then, in his inimitable style, walk towards the square-leg umpire, blinking, sniffing and snorting, as if he didn’t care. Imran, in his follow through would gnash his teeth and would toss some expletives at him. After a few deliveries, Gavaskar says, Imran turned to him at the non-striker’s end and said, “I can’t even abuse him. He walks away so far that he can’t #*@# hear what I am saying.”

Gavaskar may shave off his beard after the lockdown is over but not Kohli. “I don’t look nice without a beard,” he told his fans in a live chat. He also said that he got the nickname ‘Chiku’ from the ‘Chiku the Rabbit’, a character in the comic book, Champak. As an adolescent, when he once cut his locks, revealing large ears and chubby cheeks, his coach is said to have told him that he looked like Chiku. “Only my friends called me Chiku,” said Kohli, “but Dhoni made it famous by calling me by that name from close to the stump mic.”

Anushka revealed a deft pair of hands as she trimmed her husband’s hair in a video that went viral recently. Tendulkar, on the other hand, was seen clipping his own locks in a video he posted on the social media. His caption for that video was, ‘from square-cuts to hair-cuts’. The Master turned 47 this week.  Tendulkar’s wife Anjali, it seems, isn’t as dexterous with a pair of scissors as she is with a scalpel!

“There are two kids playing out there,” exclaimed Sakshi in a video she posted on Instagram. Dhoni, with his daughter Ziva riding pillion, was having fun on his estate riding his favourite bikes. ‘Captain Cool’ has been training hard for a comeback to the Indian team before the T20 World Cup, which in all probability will now be postponed. He has also been busy helping out with household chores, servicing his large collection of bikes and mowing the grass at his farmhouse. Dhoni isn’t apparently feeling the blues and he isn’t listening to his detractors who believe that he won’t ‘bleed blue’ any longer, especially a ‘discontented’ teammate of his from World Cup 2011.

Rohit Sharma comes across as someone who has a good head on his shoulders. It isn’t surprising then that he has been an inspirational skipper for Mumbai Indians in the IPL. In two Instagram chats last week, with Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh, he was candid about the values that he stood for and how the new bunch of players should present themselves in front of a very inquisitive media and crazy but adoring fans. “Since today’s players don’t have too many role models to look up to, as a senior, I try to talk to them and instill in them qualities like honesty and integrity,” he said. At home, during the lockdown, he does his share of the household work, washing clothes, mopping the floor and making coffee. He also carries out his daily training in his personal gym and then does his ‘endurance workout’ chasing his daughter Samaira around the house.

Pacer Jasprit Bumrah posted a video on Twitter last week telling us of how he is doing dynamic warm-ups, using a mop to clean up the floor while under lockdown. Former batsman and ex-commentator, Sanjay Manjrekar is using Twitter to coach his followers on the techniques to be used in cutting vegetables in the kitchen and how the mop can be made use of better, biomechanically.

Instagram videos tell us that the Kohlis are playing Monopoly and Ludo to pass their time, while the Sharmas too are playing board games. The Pandya brothers, Hardik and Krunal, are playing hand table-tennis on their bed. Shikhar Dhawan bats with a tennis ball against his son Zoravar in his living room and Steve Smith practises his shots, bouncing the ball off his garage wall. Or this take on the trials and tribulations of being locked in during COVID-19, as shared by former India opener and popular commentator Aakash Chopra.

Good ball-sense is an absolute must to play cricket at the highest levels. A good sense of humour too, I believe!

The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former fast bowler and coach, he believes in calling a spade a spade.

Updated Date: April 26, 2020 09:38:18 IST

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