Toying with his small cricket bat while waiting for his dad to send down a few balls at him, nine-year-old Rohit is glued to the TV that’s flashing the images of S. Sreesanth, one of his favourite cricketers.
The word ‘arrest’ gets registered, but ‘spot-fixing’ prompts him approach his grandpa for help.
This scene would have played out in many households in the country where thousands of children idolise the most successful cricketer ever to emerge from Kerala.
The image of Sreesanth, with his face covered in a black cloth, being whisked away by the police for alleged spot-fixing in an IPL match to make a few extra bucks will no doubt remain entrenched in the minds of budding young cricketers. The speedster’s fall from grace has without question set a bad example for them. A senior cricket coach who coached Sreesanth during his initial years told The Hindu on condition of anonymity, that following the episode a few aspiring cricketers could stop playing the game altogether.
The Indian Premier League, he said, was a bad influence on budding cricketers. Many parents encourage their wards to take up the sport just because of the lure of instant fame and money. “Many parents come up to me with the demand that their children should be taught only the big shots. The parents are so impatient that they want to know whether their children are IPL material on the second day of coaching itself,” he said.
It is high time to ensure young cricketers have mentors who can mould them. Personal managers, qualified coaches and former players of unblemished record have to be roped in to guide young cricketers on how to deal with fame and money that come their way too early.
Another coach with more than two decades of experience said the Sreesanth episode would definitely affect the way parents saw the game. “At least for the time being parents will think twice about sending their children to cricket coaching camps.”
Citing the ‘ban IPL save cricket’ campaign on social networking sites, he said his advice to youngsters would be to watch IPL just as a mode of entertainment like a three-hour-long film. Other than giving a few youngsters an opportunity to showcase their skills, the IPL did no good to the game. “It makes some individuals instantly rich but leaves the game poorer,” he said.
Kerala Cricket Association secretary T.C. Mathew said the spot-fixing scandal highlighted the need to train young cricketers on how to deal with fame and money and interact with the media. “We have taken up this agenda and will put in place a dedicated session focussing on this aspect in all our district academies,” he said.
Noted writer and cricket aficionado K.L. Mohana Varma, however, felt that the incident was unlikely to have an adverse effect on youngsters following the game. “Living in a country like ours where corruption is part of life, youngsters know how to take such incidents in their stride. Azharuddin, who was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 1999, went on to become an MP. Since Sreesanth is a Malayali it may stay in the news for a few days longer, then everyone will forget everything, and Sreesanth may regain his acceptability,” he said.
Senior physiatrist C.J. John considers Sreesanth just a symptom of the larger malaise of a culture of greed perpetuated by the game of cricket through events like the IPL. “When such a culture takes root then nothing one possesses will make them happy and satisfied. Cricket has degenerated more than any other game giving rise to a vicious cycle where greed takes the game forward attracting youngsters not out of the passion for the game but by the lure of glamour and money,” he said.