Banishing post-retirement blues

Spelling out his priorities… Ravi Shastri is keen that his earnings as a commentator be matched. Hence the BCCI’s delay in retaining the former all-rounder as the Team Director for India’s tour of Bangladesh.-K. PICHUMANI

The lucrative T20 competition has come to be seen as a pleasing retirement house for former cricketers, writes Priyansh.

Quite often we hear experts and cricketers speak about the outstanding importance of the Indian Premier League for Indian cricket. The experience of sharing a dressing room with some of the world’s top cricketers, and playing with them is often valorised by those involved in this competition. However, quite often the point is stressed so much that it ceases to contain any value. It becomes hackneyed and trite.

While benefits for present cricketers and those of the future often find a voice in the IPL chatter forums, it’s rare to find an insight into the advantages for past players who are sufficiently involved in the tournament, where every shot is “great”, every wicket “game changing” and every contest “a very important match.” The lucrative T20 competition has come to be seen as a pleasing retirement house for former cricketers.

It has been a positive change from the days of yore. Quite often, we saw cricketers find money hard to earn in their post-retirement days. Earnings during one’s cricket career wouldn’t suffice and they would be forced to seek employment in a form that didn’t suit their tastes. Unless a cricketer belonged to a financially strong family, he would be forced to rely on a company that had served as his patron during his playing days. Or wait for the Benefit Match allotted by the Board. These matches, it must be remembered, were organised by the individual player himself and not always did the effort fetch handsome rewards.

The times, though, have changed. A job as a commentator or coach is the most predictable path for a former cricketer nowadays. As the access to current day cricketers reduces, presspersons and fans turn to the ones who have been there, done that.

As commentators, quite a few ex-players possess the perspective to analyse cricket. Admittedly, there is little delivered in the name of analysis during the IPL. Cricket has become the sideshow to glitzy entertainment. Consequently, the elderly cricketer’s deal to appear as an expert has come to be seen as a sinecure. It demands little of his cricket knowledge. Rather, the quality of discussion wouldn’t be out of place in a pub.

Nevertheless, it’s not the former cricketers who are responsible for that. Broadcasters deserve the majority of the flak. Yet, it is fairly obvious that retired players enjoy the money and other benefits on offer. BCCI’s delay in retaining Ravi Shastri as the Team Director for the national team’s tour of Bangladesh is due to the fact that the former all-rounder was keen that his earnings as a commentator be matched. As an expert, his standing is unlikely to be damaged even by the fairly average performance he delivers on a usual basis. There’s more to be lost as a Team Director.

However, the ex-cricketer doesn’t have to look only towards commentary duties for post-playing days employment. With the advent of the IPL, he could also find a job as a coach or mentor. If one considers every franchise, a spread of former cricketers can be found in varying capacities. There is work for the lesser-known cricketers too who assist in logistics of travelling or organising net sessions in consultation with the ground staff.

Rahul Dravid as Rajasthan Royals mentor and Sanjay Bangar as KXIP’s head coach are suitable examples. They are interesting cases in point as well. The two were not the most swashbuckling hitters during their playing days. They were valuable cricketers in their own right but one wouldn’t readily pick them in a T20 side.

Yet, they lead the strategy and planning for their side in this format. In fact, Dravid, who opted not to be part of the Indian team for the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, even captained RR in past seasons. While T20 cricket didn’t even exist until 11 years ago, former cricketers have learnt the nitty-gritty of the format in relatively little time. Although it has also occasionally stumped them, that is to be expected in a format that is still evolving.

The failures haven’t stopped them, though, from exploring opportunities. It obviously helps that their experience is valued and they are remunerated handsomely. Some also enter this world for the love of coaching. Pravin Amre is a fine example, having worked with Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer. He described his move well in a recent interview, “I went into coaching rather than cribbing.” But then Amre did not require IPL to show his skills in mentoring young cricketers.