One does not want to compare the cricketers of today with those who played before. Cricket has evolved and progressed on all fronts and it becomes impossible to analyze and compare the performance of players even from a decade ago.
YAJURVINDRA SINGH One does not want to compare the cricketers of today with those who played before. Cricket has evolved and progressed on all fronts and it becomes impossible to analyze and compare the performance of players even from a decade ago.
The protection of the head, legs, arms, fingers, face, thighs and chest guards has meant that the modern cricketer wears armor, similar to that of the warriors of old. Shoes and clothing are made for maximum comfort. Goggles to improve viewing of the ball while playing have become standard equipment for cricketers at all levels of play.
However, the most significant progress has been in the quality of the bat. The piece of wood may not have changed in length and width, but the thickness and tight, compressed bat has made it so hitters hit the ball into the stands at will. It is reminiscent of the famous “mace” seen in the hand of the mighty Hanuman. The bat spins in all directions as hitters hit shots never before imagined. Progress is inevitable and is very important in the development of the human race.
Cricket has also grown by leaps and bounds; however, one wonders if today’s cricketers are mentally tougher and more resilient than ever before.
One feels that they are today, as one would describe them in the past, as “Namby-Pamby.” One has never seen so many cricketers get injured both mentally and physically. Yes, they look so much leaner, leaner, more agile, stronger and fitter, but only a few of today’s cricketers barely make it through the year without having had a major injury or mental issue.
This brings us to two recent incidents involving two former Indian cricket captains. One is the brave Nari Contractor and the other is the favorite of today’s cricketing world, Virat Kohli. Both Nari and Virat have done some extraordinary feats for Indian cricket and one holds both of them in high regard.
Nari Contractor, at the age of 88, was forced to remove the steel plate on his head due to complications. This was inserted to protect his brain after he was hit by a short ball from West Indies fast pitcher Charlie Griffith.
Nari, is a man of immense character. Where he stood out above most cricketers was that he never bore a grudge or hatred towards the bowler and always blamed himself for the mishap. His love for the game was so intense that having recovered from one of the most traumatic injuries and with a steel plate to his head, he was back on the pitch playing first class cricket for Gujarat.
He also showed a similar sign of bravery when India played at Lords in 1959. He broke a rib when he was hit in the chest, but remained at wicket to compile 81 runs. He kept the Indian innings afloat when they were in dire straits with wickets crumbling at the other end.
The reason Nari Contractor and others had that attitude was because they were mentally tough. They were taught that facing and enduring the ups and downs of the game is what challenge is all about.
On the other hand, one is looking at the mental deterioration of one of the modern greats of world cricket, Virat Kohli. He is going through a phase that every cricketer encounters in his journey. The game of cricket is the greatest leveller and even the best go through a period where the hand of God leaves them.
Virat, unfortunately, is going through a rough patch psychologically more than his skills and abilities. Many have suggested that he takes time off from the game to recover and recover. The pressure of the multimedia and digital world is too great for him to overcome, so they say. Then one tries to remember what people like Nari Contractor or Sunil Gavaskar would have done. Fleeing from the battlefield or the cricket game would be the last thing on their minds.
They would have continued to play to prove themselves without worrying about the brick hits they would have received. This is what made them great cricketers as accolades are only earned on the pitch and can only be achieved by playing more cricket. Virat Kohli has already etched his name in cricket history and the only way forward for him is to respect the game he loves and play it in the idealistic way he enjoyed.
The question of injuries and mental breakdown that seem to be a common factor in the lives of today’s cricketers makes one wonder why there were fewer of them before. A lot of cricket, bio-bubble and travel seem to be the main reasons mentioned for physical and mental problems. However, it must be remembered that these issues occur even when players live and travel in 5-star comfort and occur at a time when families can travel with them.
Perhaps the comfort of life and money are weakening them. Previously, one traveled by bus and train and was lucky enough to get the comfort of a 3-star hotel. Families were not allowed and players had to sign a contract to fulfill it. The only people you had then to talk to and ease your anxiety or depression were your co-workers. This is what made cricketers tough and resilient.
Today’s cricketer must face the truth that he is not a movie superstar hoping for a blockbuster, but a cricketer playing against the uncertainties of the game. Cricket is his passion and his success in life. The first 6 months of the pandemic were a good example of how lonely life can be without her sport.
They need to get out of their silly attitude and become hard nuts to crack. They should be thankful that they can still ply their trade, unlike many unlucky ones, who spend their time at home.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former cricketer from India)