Kids born in the 90s and before know that Rahul Dravid was not a popular legend for the masses. In fact, THE WALL was sometimes hated for slowing down the rate of carnage being caused by players like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Yuvraj and others. It is only social media that upshot his fame outside cricketing circles. Unfortunately, the Internet town hall is also destroying Indian cricket by falsely creating modern legends.
Hard life for cricketers of old
Indian Cricketers never had an easier ride than the one enjoyed by the current generation of players. Throughout history, cricketers had to build everything from scratch to get much deserved fame. Even after that most of them just died unknown deaths. For instance, most of you do not know that Probir Sen was the only Indian wicket keeper to have stumped Donald Bradman. Similarly, people remember Ranjitsinhji as ruler of Nawabnagar and not as one of the greatest batsmen of all time.
Similarly, it takes an incident of Mankading to remember Vinoo Mankad as the hero of India’s first test as well as the First Test series win against England and Pakistan respectively. Ajit Vadekar’s role as player and captain in India’s first overseas win and victories against ferocious West Indies and England was not good enough to register his name in the league of greatest cricketers India ever produced.
The Era of Kapil Dev and Gavaskar
Throughout the next 12 years, India saw only 2 big superstars. The first one was Gavaskar who gained instant fame by amassing 774 runs in the 1971 series against West Indies. Later when Gavaskar started to fade and could only show occasional brilliance, Kapil Dev emerged as the saving grace of the team. His bowling used to save the day while his quick runs lower down the order made up for slow strike rate of Sunny.
Kapil Dev owed his fame mainly to his all-around abilities. Despite that Indian Cricket as a whole and players, in particular, did not earn enough to be termed as wealthy. The poor state of affairs of the inflow of revenue in the game is well established by the fact that Lata Mangeshkar did a free concert for BCCI to enable them to have enough rupees to spend on players.
Though the fortunes of the game changed in the country after 1983, players’ dedication did not. Kapil dev ensured that the commitment and other traditional moral value systems are transferred to the next crop of players. There is a reason why a 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar took a hit from a 156-gram red cherry on his helmet and did not go back to Pavillion. The mental toughness was built by the aura of discipline put into the dressing room by senior cricketers.
Sachin took on the batton
Later Sachin Tendulkar went on to become arguably the greatest batsman of the game. He became the pillar on which fav 5 consisting of Sachin, Saurav, Sehwag, Rahul and Laxman was built.
Later MS Dhoni also learned serious hardcore disciplines under their tutelage and went on to carve out a special stoic image for himself. Before coming to the team, he was just considered a local rowdy boy with extraordinary muscle strengths. The man retired as an absolute legend, renowned for mastery over tactical decisions.
Yuvi pointed out the problem
During Dhoni’s younger days, Yuvraj Singh was known as a weak spot when it came to maintaining the atmosphere in the dressing room. Despite that Yuvi used to have immense respect for the seniors.
Elaborating on the atmosphere he grew in as a cricketer, Yuvraj had said, “I think juniors, because of social media, party scenes, these things, we could not even think about that in our time. Because we had that fear that if we do some mistake our seniors will tell us that do not do this, this is not right.”
Yuvi said, “we had that fear”. The fear is nowhere to be seen in modern dressing rooms. Yuvraj also hinted at the reason behind the problem. Social media is the termite eating up the Indian cricket team. The evidence is too glaring to not notice. Just look at the contrast in the performance of players who made their debut before social media and after that.
Sharma and Kohli are modern legends
In the current crop, only Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are the ones whose debut matches were not hashtags. It is not a coincidence that both are legends of the game. Virat just scored his 71st century while Rohit is captaining the team. However, these legends have failed to do what their predecessors did. They did not transfer a positive and performance-enhancing environment to the next crop of players.
IPL parties and social media
Instead, India’s dressing room is more jovial than it needs to be for a professional sporting team. The guiding line behind all this is “word hard, party harder.” It all started when IPL and its after-match parties came to the scene. The party used to host everyone from the top brass of the owners to seniors and juniors under one roof. Soon the line started to get blurred, and with that respect for seniors turned into a friendship with them.
Even after parties were banned, the advent of social media did the rest of the damage. Players who earlier had to toil hard for years to gain fame are now superstars for their fan base. Their pyrotechnics and out-of-the-book shots started to get featured in sponsored Instagram reels. In modern times, it does not take much long for the players to turn from rags to riches. Hardik Pandya who is now establishing himself in the team is already a superstar for most of the Indians.
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Reels help cricketers acquire cult status
Reason? His big shots circulate more on the Internet than Sachin Tendulkar’s exquisite montage of cover and straight drives, a way more difficult skill to master. Similarly, Rishab Pant’s fame owes mainly to the few acrobatic shots he played. His average record should not have been good enough to make him a star for motivational speakers. The same is the case with Hardik Pandya.
Consciously or unconsciously, both these cricketers have used their poverty to climb up the advertising ladder. But the fun fact is that they have not even retired and in Pant’s case he has not even got to the level of maturity. Pant is now the rockstar and upcoming sensation in the Indian advertising industry. His poor acting skills are no barrier.
Those who have not been able to get big money in advertising are getting them in their pockets through social media. Millions of people watch short reels of players like Shreyas Iyer and Yazuvendra Chahal. Money is not a hurdle for these players and they do not play cricket to make their ends meet. They play it to enjoy the game, which they have reiterated numerous times.
Enjoyment is a necessity in international matches, but it has the potential to derail the journey. The biggest of the damage has come off as the elimination of a respected figure at the top of the hierarchy. The idea of enjoyment was pushed in by senior players so that youngsters do not put them under too much pressure. Unfortunately, the idea ended up doing more damage to the team than gains.
The youngsters of the team consider their seniors as their friends and with friendship, the discipline factor gets buried. This is what is wrong with modern legends. To give their co-players space, they have ended up eliminating the line which separates legends and ordinary.
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