Cricket means ready money what with so many T20 leagues today. Not long ago, a career in the sport was considered fickle. Do players contemplate back-up plans? Simon Katich, Steve O'Keefe and Stuart Clark of Australia share their experiences

The recent phenomenon of cash rich twenty-20 leagues may lead us to believe that cricketers were always well paid. But it wasn't too far back that players were faced with the choice between following their dream and earning a living.

The New South Wales team was camped out of Chennai during the Champions League T20 and in the numerous instances that were brokered between uninterested players and the desperate media, its skipper Simon Katich revealed: “I attended University of Western Australia and was pursuing commerce and accounts. After completing my course, there was a period during which I was unable to break into higher levels of cricket, at which point I applied to a few firms in the accountancy department.”

For six years between his first class debut in 1996 and turning out for Australia in 2001, Katich frequently contemplated switching careers.

“I thankfully got my break in time. It was quite a while since I had started and at times there are doubts when one repeatedly fails to make it,” said Katich.

Faced with a similar quandary, fellow Australian and NSW teammate Steve O'Keefe was willing to take more drastic measures. “Only a few years ago, I wasn't in the mix and was considering other career options. I thought of opening a bar in Thailand and even contemplated teaching, carpentry or becoming an entrepreneur,” said the left-arm spinner.

Compared with what O'Keefe had in mind, Katich's plans for alternative employment involved the far more sedate world of accountancy, and the Aussie veteran felt his education would count as a buffer.

“For a sportsperson, even someone who has made it to the national side, the number of earning years is limited. For a person who is still competing at the lower rungs, it is way harder. Then you have to think of post-retirement too. If you are going to put yourself out on the job market outside of cricket, having a university degree is not a bad idea,” said Katich.

O'Keefe agreed. “I know a career in cricket is fickle, so it is always good to have a back-up plan in place,” Another Australian, more in the vintage of Katich than O'Keefe, fast bowler Stuart Clark spent five years as a real-estate agent before he got his call-up for the national side in 2005. Clark even spent time when he was dropped or injured or not in contention for Australia to equip himself with various degrees from the University of Sydney. Already holding a masters degree in Commerce, Clark completed a course in Public Law recently.

“I had a series of injuries in 2003-04, a couple of years before my first Australian call-up. I knew then that an alternative career is the smart way to go about things, if a career in cricket doesn't materialise. I had a late debut and I knew I would be able to play at that level for only so long,” said the man who was declared Man of the Series in his debut assignment at 30.

Katich (and one would assume O'Keefe and Clark too) was thankful that he did not have to make that crucial call. “It would have been really hard on me, to give up on something I loved for a livelihood. Perhaps the players today are luckier in that they have the option to appear in several such T20 leagues and the ready money they provide.”

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012