A cricketer in India has a dual dream
White flannels, a cricket kit and bat in hand - such has been the uniform for any toddler ever since he first dreamed of playing for India. I was no different. When asked in school as to what I wanted to be when I grew up, my reply was innocently spontaneous: an Indian cricketer, even as the classroom burst into laughter. My response was fairly natural and so was theirs, but it was then that I realized I couldn't see anything before or beyond playing for India.
My dream would remain a dream even as I fast forward my life by 15 years. I walk into my building and join the kids playing cricket and then quickly shoot a question at one of them: "So, all set to play for India?" The reply is prompt: "Yeah, but first if I can play for Mumbai Indians, it would great."
I should have guessed it; after all, he was trying to clear the building walls wearing a Mumbai Indians jersey. That's cricket in its contemporary version for you. From being a conventional sport to a fashionable one lost in the demanding set-up of misplaced priorities. Had the little fella even mentioned the Mumbai Ranji Trophy side, I would have shown him the cover drive. But here he was, already inventing a wide range of shots which only had the bottom hand in action.
Call this the advent of cricket or its commercialization, but let us not blame the poor kid, for all he realizes is a career option with great financial stability, a chance to earn a ticket into the Indian side or even play with the best in the world.
The mentality has changed and let us admit that today's cricketer has a two-dream syndrome. While playing for the country remains his ultimate goal, mid-way he has a mini-goal to fulfill as well and that is to play in the IPL. Many would say, why not? I also say why not?
That's because if Manpreet Gony, Naman Ojha and Saurabh Tiwary can go on to represent India, then why not any other talented cricketer in India. If Lasith Malinga and Brett Lee can retire from the Test format only to play for the IPL and other Twenty20 leagues, then it only makes it easier for a youngster to read between the lines.
The IPL to a large extent has shaped a youngster's attitude towards the sport, not surprisingly; today's young cricketer is smart and sensible rather than being passionate and conventional. He understands the shelf life of a cricketer, he understands the period of being in power, he understands the money involved in the sport. Cricket remains his passion, but the IPL has become his profession.
I have spoken to quite a few young cricketers in India and most of them aren't confused about their priorities. Yes, they want to play for India, but they also want to play in the IPL. They are pretty clear and believe that it's the best thing that has happened to Indian cricket. I ask them again, "Is it the best thing happened to Indian cricket?" and their reply is an impulsive "Yes it is."
Today, playing for a franchise for most players is almost playing for India. It's an identification of their hard work and realization of their dream. He now has a reason to feel worthy of a mention and celebration. Not surprisingly, the young cricketer has a dual dream in the present day scenario.
Pankaj Singh, Siddharth Trivedi, Abhishek Jhujunwala and Sreevats Goswami have all dreamt of playing for India, and still do, but they are living the IPL dream. A dream that allows them a chance to erase the struggles of making it into the Indian side. A feeling of vindication for them, which reminds them of a reward they deserve after years of toil. They are happy.
Cricket today is a profession inspired by passion and motivated by money and a clear understanding to this is best explained in the IPL, that's because if a domestic league gives hefty cheques for a catch and sixes hit, then even an average cricketer realizes, a lakh a night is only a couple of sixes away.
The IPL is a place for the new finds as well as the lost and found. Some announce their arrival, some come back into the spotlight and some even prolong careers. It is the only format and competition which has not ended careers and this is the primary reason a cricketer today wants to embrace and prove his worth in this competition.
Cricketers in India are like a pool of talent, but they need to realize that the IPL is the perfect platform for a career launch, not the nursery of Indian cricket. Sadly this IPL nursery has now become their home and office as well, something that only explains their state of mind.
At a time when young cricketers are desperate to find a franchise, their focus from the larger goal is digressing. But in a setup-up which seems to be highly politicised with quota systems and favouritism, the smart young cricketer has weighed his options only to live two dreams in one life.
More about Mikkhail Vaswani
Mikkhail Vaswani is a presenter on Neo Cricket and hosts 'Dial C for Cricket' and other shows on the channel. Prior to Neo, Mikkhail worked with NDTV, ZEE and Times Now. Along with his editorial and programming expertise, he also teaches in colleges as a guest faculty and has also hosted and moderated seminars in colleges as a motivational speaker.
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