There’s a strange malady engulfing India’s international cricketers. If recent signs are anything to go by, there is an epidemic in the air that affects players’ love, regard and concern for the home association that helped groom and develop them.
There are many ways that this disrespect-causing epidemic is playing out: Ajinkya Rahane preferred to holiday in Seychelles rather than turn out for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy; Ambati Rayudu announced his retirement from longer duration matches just as the season for Hyderabad was starting; Shikhar Dhawan is holidaying in Australia even as his state Delhi is going through the grind.
The latest to join this growing ‘I-don’t-care-for-my-state/association’ sick list is Gautam Gambhir.
No doubt he had served state and country in an exemplary manner these past few years. But that still does not explain his shabby disregard for Delhi’s interests when he opted to ditch them mid-way through the season.
He claims that his failure in the Indian Premier League (IPL) during the months of April and May earlier this year convinced him that it was end of the road for him. So why did he not pull out then and there? That would have enabled Delhi to systematically plan ahead for the 2018-19 season.
Instead the feisty cricketer, after his television stint during the India-Australia T20I series, when his abandoned Delhi teammates were engaged in a Ranji Trophy encounter, decided he would quit during the season.
“The next Ranji Trophy game against Andhra will be my last day in the sun,” he said in a video post.
“The thought has been with me day and night. It has travelled with me on flights like an irritable excess baggage; it has accompanied me to practice sessions, mocking at me like a menacing bowler. On certain other days, it has made my dinner taste horrible,” he rambled on.
“I was searching for my confidence in that deep, dark pit but I could only lay my hands on the same sharp, disturbing noise. It said the same: ‘It is over Gauti’,” he said.
“After a decent 2017 domestic season, I entered this year’s IPL with confidence as my best buddy. I thought all those negative noises were dead. But I was wrong. Six games of IPL for Delhi Daredevils it was back. And this time it was louder than before. Perhaps, my time was up. Yes, my time was up,” he said.
So why didn’t he quit back then and leave his beloved Delhi enough time and scope to make plans for cricket after Gambhir?
Actually Gambhir’s has not been the lone out of the blue retirement this year. Last month, after he cemented his place in the India ODI squad to Australia, Rayudu suddenly decided to quit Ranji Trophy cricket. It caught his home association Hyderabad off guard.
Rayudu who had played for Hyderabad, Andhra, Baroda, Vidharba, was wooed back to Hyderabad last season. He was expected to be their star player and mentor, but his sudden retirement stumped Hyderabad.
The chairman of HCA senior selection committee, Noel David, was quoted as saying: “It is a big loss for Hyderabad cricket as Rayudu was not only a genius of a batsman but also a very intelligent captain. He has a good cricketing brain and reads the game very well. Finding someone with all these qualities in a short time will be a tough call for us. The ball is now in our court as we have to rework our plans for the season. This is an out of the blue blow for us as we hadn't expected this as the season has just started. We will have to rework our strategies and look how best we can fill up this big gap.”
It is not that players should not quit or go away on holidays. But senior cricketers ought to do these in a more organised way. They have a duty to ensure that their association is forewarned enough to prepare and groom successors in a phased manner.
Instead, the Rahanes and Dhawans believe that they can walk in and walk out of their state team at their whims and fancy and that some junior’s career can be callously trifled with.
May be Sunil Gavaskar has the best solution when he said: “We shouldn’t ask Dhawan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni ‘Why you are not playing domestic cricket?’ We should, in fact, ask the BCCI and selectors why are they allowing players to skip domestic cricket when they are not on national duty.”
Former giants of the game, Gavaskar, GR Vishwanath, Rahul Dravid and a host of others never snubbed or took their state association for granted. There is little reason why the sick current state of affairs needs to be tolerated.
Players ignoring their state’s interests to give commentary, go on holidays or simply quit mid-season is a disturbing trend that needs to be nipped in the bud. Else it is sure to harm the long term interests of the game. Time for BCCI to read the danger signals and act.