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Platform for Unknown Faces

New Delhi, Thu, 08 May 2008 M Shamsur Rabb Khan

Perhaps no one could see many a budding talents like Manpreet Gony of Chennai Super Kings, Dhawal Kulkarni of Mumbai Indians or Pragyan Ojha of Deccan Chargers or Ravindra Jadeja of Rajasthan Royals live. Many a cricket stars, like these four, have been lost in the pages of history. Many of them played Ranji matches for years and retired with a heart full of pain and pockets without penny. Thanks to IPL that provided a great professional platform for those unknown talents, who had neither any motivating factor to excel nor any other option to eke out a living when retired. It has widened the prospect where many cricket talents could be absorbed or live with honour when they would call it a day and learn by rubbing shoulders with international stars. Now that Shaun Pollock is seen hugging Robin Uthappa or the Sri Lankan skipper patting Irfan Pathan on the back or Warne clapping Sohail Tanvir’s six scalps with enthusiasm or Ganguly showing anger at Mohammad Hafeez, IPL has given cricket a new global dimension. If Brazil could be proud of football, so India, not England, be honoured for cricket.

One reason why football in Europe and Latin America is worshipped is the sheer practicality of the approach with which the game has been adopted, viewed and played. In comparison to meager pay package to Indian football players, stars of European league are paid in millions. This is the reason why India is nowhere in football if we compare it with the leading soccer playing countries in the world. What can be more torturous than watching small, under developed countries like Togo and Ghana playing in the 18th FIFA World Cup 2006 that was held in Germany and Indian with more than a hundred billion people was not in the race? And, more sadly, why has hockey lost all its grandeur and splendour in recent times that we even failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games?

Of course, money is the greatest motivating factor that shapes talents, helps enhance performances, and produces global standards, in addition to creating, not a few, but so many stars from among the native players. It fetches glamour and celebrity status as well. What a player gets at the end of the day matters, and more so in the era of globalization when instant communication tells him or her the kind of money involved in club transfers in European football league. Performance according to pay or vice verse is the key mantra that we in India realize not before we undergo a few shocking setbacks, so far sports is concerned, albeit we don’t relate this logic to any other profession. A whooping prize money of US$ 200,000 or at least US$ 50,000 will prompt every Indian boy to opt for cricket.

Corporatization of sports is something that IPL has been able to initiate. So, Mukesh Ambani patronizing cricket gives the impression that game has reached the pinnacle of corporate world. So, Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta franchising cricket means it has the potential to fetch glamour with it. So, Deccan Herald opting to do business with cricket shows it could bring money along with fame to the newspaper.

Any small kid reading Dhayanchand for the first time might well be hugely disappointed when he would compare the great legend’s team with the current one that is defeated by South Korea recently. Will he follow the magician and opt for hockey as a career? Even those youngsters who might show some inborn talents or natural inclination towards our national game might well switch over to cricket. Why? This young Indian generation is brought up amidst the culture of live telecast of cricket matches; he watches Dhoni walking the ramp or Yuvraj romancing with Deepika Padukone or reads that Sachin rides Ferrari or the Indian skipper is the highest tax payer in Jharkhand. Even the old fathers who had left no stone unturned in prohibiting their sons and daughter from playing any sport in the past would regret their decisions. Some retired cricket greats would be writhing in disappointment on missing the IPL bus.

Intelligent youngsters would reason: in hockey, India was at the zenith in yonder days, but now it is at the lowest ebb. And going by the saying “more men adore the sun rising than the sun setting” he would pick cricket instantly. Now modern parents are busy in promoting their sons to become Sachin, and that is why more and more, Yuvrajas, if not Sachins, are being born in various parts of the country. Sometime back I read Munaf Patel distributing money to his poor villagers, as they would ask him whenever he visits his native village. Munaf as a football player would not have been able to give a rupee to his co-villagers, but would rather be asking from them upon retirement.

Think Ishant Sharma as a budding hockey player for a while, not as the fastest bowler India could ever produce. His family status would have been what it was when Ishant entered the cricketing arena. Many analysts have tried to paint a bad picture of IPL, but they should know it is less time consuming, more entertaining and higher money fetching exercise.

And as the game is progressing well, crowds of men and women are responding wholeheartedly. Dispelling all pessimistic apprehensions and doubts, IPL has proved to be a grand success. The beginning it has made gives us a promising future, and the day is not far away when ODIs will take the place of Test cricket while Twenty20 will be new shorter form of the game, much like the European football league. After all, in a busy modern life a whole day entertainment from is too much of an ask. Test cricket, like rare animals, will face extinction soon.

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