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‘I hate Ravindra Jadeja. He’s betrayed Rajasthan Royals’, wrote a Rajasthan Royals fan on my Facebook page. ‘Jadeja should be banned for longer’, wrote another on Twitter. I felt bad for him. He reminded me of classic western tragedies and a fallen hero, doomed to a life of retribution, for he fell for the lure. No doubt, he should have been penalized. Yet, I consider the fine just a deterrent, not the solution. Jadeja’s story didn’t come as a shock, for I had seen it all coming and was surprised that no one else did.
A lot of players faced a similar situation in the first edition of the IPL when they were found negotiating with other franchisees despite already signing an MOU with one. Back then, they were let off with a stern warning. Ironically enough, it was never considered an issue, but an aberration.
But ever wondered why players didn’t take the MOU seriously? Well, it wasn’t just plain foolishness. Perhaps, we missed a story there.
The contract stand-off between agents and players has continued to be an eye sore for both the parties for ever now. The latest case in point being boxer Vijender Singh. Apparently, he signed a rather odd contract in which he agreed to share 60% of the revenue generated with the agency. It was a long contract with no option to walk out. And it isn’t just the newbies who’ve succumbed to the pressures. Big guns like Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh too have had their share of unpleasant trysts with legal modalities.
What troubles me is this – why did Vijender agree to such obscene terms?
Well, as kids when you go to an academy the only thing you learn are the nuances of the game. You ask your seniors and coach how to play a certain shot or bowl a certain ball. You never ask them how to find the right agent and how to deal with the media. Neither do the seniors offer you such an advice. But the moment you graduate to the next level you’re suddenly exposed to a world of a different kind. Not only do you face better bowlers and batsmen but also different kinds of pressure from all quarters.
If you perform, even moderately enough, an agent/manager and nowadays the IPL scouts approach you with an unimaginable booty in hand. With cricket fast becoming mercurial in nature, the insecurities loom large on its players. And the agents cash in on just that. A rosy picture is painted and a world, hitherto unseen, is promised to these kids. Would you then blame these teenagers or 20-somethings for falling for it?
But, it’s not only the contracts where players find themselves on a sticky ground. A certain sense of high headedness amongst cricketers has also been a constant media grouse. Even the officials within the board have aired their concern with regards to the priorities of the younger lot. Add to this the danger of success going to a players head and one has a lot of issues to deal with. But are the young players equipped to deal with these non-cricketing issues? My answer is a firm ‘no’.
With the average age of a player making some quick bucks coming down considerably, there’s certainly a need to address these issues. These players need professional help on various quarters. We need a mechanism in place which would reach out to these kids and teach them how to deal with the media, how to choose the agent judiciously, how to honor a contract and its repercussions and above all how to set your priorities right with regards to playing for the country. It may sound a lot of work but England Cricket Board does it efficiently every year. They have a drug menace to deal with and hence to educate their cricketers, they’ve formed a committee which visits every county and speaks to every first-class cricketer. We need something similar keeping our issues in mind. Such mechanism would not only avoid Jadeja-like cases to occur but also will empower players to deal with the over-the-top criticism Jadeja has been subjected to.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.