Parents syndrome

Table Tennis coach V. Chandrasekhar says that he would not allow parents to the coaching arena.-K.V. SRINIVASAN

Ambitious parents are wooing selectors by inviting them to hotels or resorts for holidaying, and even worse, some of the selectors are entertaining these invitations. The parents-selectors nexus is growing to such an extent that good performers are denied opportunities in favour of lesser performers.

The death of a budding 14-year-old table tennis player from Bengal, after his father mercilessly beat him up, must have shaken young players of his age. Most of these kids, especially in individual games, get a thrashing from their parents if they do not perform up to expectations.

Recently, former National TT champion, V. Chandrasekhar said that he does not allow the players' parents to enter his academy hall. This is possible in a game that is played indoors. But in a field game like cricket, parents sit on the boundary, even under the hot sun, during net practice.

I remember an incident during the Under-14 Elf-Vengsarkar match played at the Oval maidan in Mumbai. Vengsarkar had given instructions that no parents should be allowed near the main tent and so a huge shamiana was erected for them on the other side of the boundary.

Suddenly, we saw the captain of a team stopping the game and walking towards us. His complaint was that a fielder near the parents' tent was being moved by none other than the player's father. We told the captain to move the fielder to the boundary near Eros cinema. We thought the problem was solved. But the parent walked towards the boundary near Eros cinema and kept yelling at his son who after a minute dropped a sitter. Annoyed by this, the boy's father threw a sharp object at the boy, who got injured and was rushed to the hospital.

On the same ground, a 14-year-old from Gujarat, playing against Mumbai, was caned by the state coach when he was out to a poor shot. The boy was so petrified that he had to be treated for shock more than for the injuries by the doctor on the ground.

While I was in Karnataka on an assignment for five years, I was shocked to learn that at one centre the parents had formed a `Young Cricketers' Parents' Association'. In fact they handed me a souvenir of the association. It was only after they were told about the repercussions of forming such an association that they disbanded it.

But, gradually, the trend is changing from parents breaking the rules inadvertently to knowingly. A proactive straightforward concern for their children's careers has metamorphosed into blatantly underhanded tactics.

Ambitious parents are wooing selectors by inviting them to hotels or resorts for holidaying, and even worse, some of the selectors are entertaining these invitations. The parents-selectors nexus is growing to such an extent that good performers are denied opportunities in favour of lesser performers.

Some state selectors run commercial cricket academies. Parents enrol their sons in these academies, in the hope that their sons would have a better chance of getting selected.

Four Karnataka junior selectors, when given the choice between running their commercial cricket academy and being part of the selection committee, decided to resign and opted to continue with their academy. But the very moment the choice was presented to the selectors, parents withdrew their sons from the academy, which then had to be closed down.

There was one potential cricketer who went on to play for the state but gave up the game because he had to do what his father wanted him to do — apart from listening to three coaches at various centres.

The ones to suffer this parents syndrome most are the sons of former first class cricketers. They play under the tremendous pressure of having to live up to the reputation of their fathers and this affects their performance. The game is getting too competitive and the pressure is immense.

Cricket was meant to be a simple game of grace, skill, talent and dedication. But young players — whose own ambitions and enjoyment of the game are completely overshadowed by their parents — can vouch that cricket is no longer an enjoyable sport to play.