A great gesture

IT was such a wonderful sight watching the Indian and the Sri Lankan cricketers taking part in a benefit match to raise funds for singing legend Lata Mangeshkar's cancer hospital. It was a great gesture on the part of these two sides.

SRIKKANTH

Sachin Tendulkar presents "The Making of a Cricketer," his biography, to Lata Mageshkar before the benefit match to raise funds for the singing Legend's cancer hospital project in Mumbai. Actor Shah Rukh Khan is also in the picture. Such gestures, of taking part in benefit matches, by the cricketers are just wonderful, says the author.-Pic. PTI

IT was such a wonderful sight watching the Indian and the Sri Lankan cricketers taking part in a benefit match to raise funds for singing legend Lata Mangeshkar's cancer hospital. It was a great gesture on the part of these two sides.

Especially so soon after a gruelling World Cup campaign that must have left the players exhausted. Both India and Sri Lanka entered the latter stages of the tournament and not many would have complained had they requested for a change in date.

Instead, the players took part wholeheartedly. Just goes to show their generosity towards a just cause. Cricketers and film stars, considering their popularity in this country, can do so much to help the needy.

I still remember a charity match between India and Pakistan in Chennai, in '87, that generated Rs. 27 lakhs. In those days, this was a huge amount.

That again was a contest in which all the stars participated, and the money went to a worthy cause. I can tell you from experience that it gives the cricketers plenty of satisfaction to contribute. During the height of the Kargil conflict, the top cricketers and film stars participated in a game to raise funds for those brave ones defending our borders. The occasion was big and the stars were not found wanting.

During moments of crisis for the country, the cricketers can really make their presence felt. Millions love and admire them, and would surely respond to their call.

The cricketers do succeed in uniting the country as one. You can see this during competitions such as the World Cup, when the whole nation, forgetting the differences of caste and creed, prays for the success of the national team.

A victory would send these millions into a frenzy, a defeat would send them into depression. Cricket and cricketers occupy the thoughts and minds of so many people that when they step forward for a good cause, countless fans and supporters will join them without batting an eyelid.

We have so many examples of Indian cricketers making a significant donation to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate ones. I can straightaway recall one such instance. Sachin Tendulkar once graced a show where a group of spastic children put together a marvellous stage performance. So moved was this great cricketer, that he spontaneously made a hefty donation. I was the anchor during that memorable evening in Chennai, and Sachin had only one request to me. That his contribution be kept a secret. I could, however, not hold back my admiration for Sachin, and told the audience about the generous act. Some of these kids go through so much of untold suffering that if a cricketer can manage to put a smile on their faces, it would mean so much to these children. The satisfaction in `giving' something can seldom be matched.

Take the case of that great Australian cricketer Steve Waugh. Year after year, he flies down to Kolkata, and spends time with the children of leprosy patients in Udyan. What a noble deed from this exemplary cricketer!

Like some of our own players, Steve Waugh is a deeply compassionate man, who understands that the world extends far beyond cricket. He sees the pain and the suffering and cannot just keep watching dumbly.

We also have the glittering example of the legendary Pakistani Imran Khan before us. He desired to construct a state-of-the-art hospital in Pakistan in memory of his mother, and this was the inspiration he needed to lead his country to a remarkable triumph in the '92 World Cup.

Imran was a fine leader of men, and that Cup victory of Pakistan is still remembered for the manner in which the side bounced back after all but being knocked out of the tournament. It was an emotional moment for Imran, when he held aloft the trophy. It also marked the realisation of a dream. The cancer hospital was subsequently built and is benefiting thousands of patients today.

I hear Mahela Jayawardane, a high-quality stroke-maker from Sri Lanka, has plans of building a similar hospital in his country. It is heartening to see such noble thoughts in someone as young as Jayawardane.

This gifted batsman is at present going through a rough phase, and I hope, he rediscovers his form soon. The game only stands to gain if talented cricketers such as Jayawardane find their bearings.

Actually, Jayawardane reminds me of a certain Lankan, who would go down in history as one of the greatest cricket has seen. The formidable Aravinda de Silva.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my tributes to Aravinda, a great cricketer, who has now bid adieu to the game at all levels. I was with the Indian team in Sri Lanka in '85, and those were early days for him in international cricket. Even then, the talent in him was only too obvious. We knew that once this batsman matured, he would develop into one of the finest Sri Lanka had produced. This came true as Aravinda blossomed into a classy all-round batsman, who could tailor his game according to the needs of the team.

He came up with several key innings for his country in Test cricket, was a major player as Sri Lanka won the World Cup in '96, and it was always such a joy watching him parade his skills. Similarly, Zimbabwean Andy Flower has called it a day from international cricket, and has virtually been forced into doing so. I will remember him as a batsman who could adapt himself to the different conditions and situations with ease.

Timing one's retirement is probably the toughest decision for a cricketer. There will always be the temptation to carry on for a year more, give it one more go. There might be a lot of people offering you various suggestions, too.

Ultimately, it is the cricketer himself who has to make the choice. I wish Aravinda de Silva and Andy Flower the very best of luck in their future challenges.