|The Sportsworld Interview
(Thanks to Anupama Srinivasan
for typing this out)
Till about nine or ten
years back, cricket was not really a sport that parents encouraged their
sons to pursue. How did you start off and did your family encourage you
or discourage you?
My parents have been very
encouraging and supporting of my cricket. They never forced me to play
cricket or forced me to do any particular thing. They saw that I had an
interest in cricket and they never discouraged me. Nor did they put any
additional pressure on me that I must do this or do that. They just let
me develop as I went along. And I always loved playing cricket and I just
kept playing it and was lucky enough to make a career out of it.
I started off while I was
studying in St. Joseph's Boys High School. We had a good junior team, which
won most of the tournaments, and I began playing for them. There were regular
practices in school and that's where I started enjoying the game. From
there, I got into the State Under-15 side and then got into the system
at the K.S.C.A. I played a lot of junior level cricket before graduating
to the Ranji Trophy level, etc. I used to play a little bit of hockey and
football in school, just to be with my friends, and just because it was
a season, but cricket was always my first love and I always wanted to be
Tell us something about
your formative years - cricket in school, college, etc. and who was the
As I said, I got my initial
encouragement at the St.Joseph's Boys High School. Mr.Keki Tarapore was
my coach in my formative years. He was the man who taught me the basics
and guided me. That was a very big benefit in the early years. Then I joined
St.Joseph's College of Commerce, which had a rich sporting tradition. That's
how I gradually got into the system at K.S.C.A.
Cricketers these days
get lucrative jobs even when they are in the midst of their careers. Where
are you employed and what does your duties entail?
I'm deputy general manager
in the marketing division of India Cements Limited. Actually at the moment
with so much of cricket around, I haven't really been able to do much of
marketing for the company. But at the moment, mainly my job is to play
for the company, which has a good, strong cricket team in Chennai. I play
a lot of league and outstation tournaments for them, and try and promote
the company's name wherever I can. In fact, India Cements have been great
employers to me, providing a lot of encouragement. They are very good to
Having made a name in
cricket, you are marketing a company's name too.
Yeah, I think that's what
tends to happen. If I do well, a lot of credit must, and deservedly so,
also goes to the company as well.
Have you appeared in any
ads of India Cements?
No, not yet (laughs).
Like international tennis,
cricket also seems to be dedicated by TV channels. They dictate the venues,
teams, and even the times of tournaments. Is there too much of commercialisation?
Not really. I think you
have to strike a balance between commercialisation and the game. In the
end you need a bit of commercialisation because to run a sport like cricket,
and to make it as professional as possible, you need money coming in. You
need television and you need sponsors. I mean, you've got to strike the
right balance. I agree that the game should not be played for television
alone. But I think you've got to keep the interests of that media in mind.
Because in the end, that helps promote the game and brings in more money
which helps bring in more cricketers, and helps in the development of youth
Cricketers in India these
days are big role models. Even though you are one of the most easily recognisable
faces in the Indian team, you do not do too many commercials. Is this out
(Laughs). I do quite a few.
People complain that I've been doing a lot of commercials. But I
just do what I've been offered. I'm a little choosy about what I do and
what I don't. I think at the moment I've been able to strike a right balance,
not spending too much time on commercials. It's just that I spend a few
days in a year for these commercials. I enjoy doing that, as it not only
helps me financially, but also in my personal development.
You are a role model for
many aspiring cricketers. A lot of young guys even go through the practice
regimen that you endorse in the Pepsi ad. Do you think that the cricketers
should go out of their way to be ideal role models?
Yeah, I think as cricketers
and public figures we have a responsibility to be role models. Since the
media glare is on us and we know that a lot of children are looking up
to us, and so we have a responsibility. That doesn't mean we've got to
change as a person.
I think we should try and
be what we are naturally. I think people tend to accept if we are our own
self, instead of trying to act and be someone else. That's the best role
model one can be to anyone. But having said that, we cannot be blamed for
everything that goes wrong. I feel the parents are the best role models
for the kids today. Nobody can take their place.
Unlike the previous decade,
cricketers in India now are an enormously wealthy lot. A lot of the public
view cricketers as having a get-rich-quick mantra. These days even if an
Indian cricketer has a short career, he makes much more money than his
former contemporaries. Does this too-much-money-too-soon phenomenon affect
the competitiveness of the players?
I don't think so. I agree
there's more money in the sport than when the earlier generation was playing
the game. But that's true of everything in life. I`m sure that the earlier
generation had more money than their previous generation. In mean, it's
just a cycle. I'm sure that the future generations that play cricket after
us will have much more money than us. All of us cricketers realise that
we can only make money and we can only succeed in the sport if we do well
all the time. And to do well, we've to put in that much amount of hard
work and we've to be professionals.
All of us welcome the fact
that there is more money in the sport today, which is a very good sign.
Because most of us have short careers. A career in cricket, or any sport
is very short. I think most cricketers sacrifice their lives playing the
game. Once we finish playing cricket, we wouldn't have learnt any other
skills to really survive in the outside world. Considering this short career
stuff, it's important that there should be money in sport, and I don't
think that our competitiveness ever gets affected. In face, I think in
a way it might even enhance our competitiveness.
Does money inspire you
to perform better?
I don't think money inspires
you to perform better. But money helps. I'm sure if there was no money
in sport, then people would divert their attention to something else to
make two ends meet. But since there is lot of money, most of the guys can
focus full attention on cricket.
A couple of years back
the Banglore brigade was regarded as the new saviors of Indian cricket.
They supposedly took over from the Mumbai stranglehold on Indian cricket.
Now that has changed. What are the reasons?
This question of Banglore
brigade or Mumbai domination does tend to upset a lot of us cricketers.
I don't think none of us while playing for India like to be referred to
as the Banglore brigade. Because when we play for India, we play as Indians.
It's like even though we may come from a particular place, we are representing
India at that particular point of time.
It's just happened as coincidence
and has nothing to do with any sort of domination or any pride in the fact.
It's nice that we're all playing together. But I personally do get upset
when people try and make city-dominated or state-dominated remarks. Because
we never think that way. We try and win the Ranji trophy and beat any other
state. When we are playing for India, I don't need to compete with Mumbai.
I'm competing with whatever, the West Indies or South Africa. I think it's
a wrong notion that people have that we tend to group together or that
we stay together.
Do you think that the
Indian cricket fans expect too much from you? Or do you get bogged down
by the expectations of the selectors, your captain and the fans?
Expectations are going to
be part of our career, and we've got to face it all the time. The most
important thing I've learnt over the years is that you've got to live up
to your own expectations and standards, that you set for yourself. You
cannot match anyone else's expectations and standards.
You've got to have certain
goals and achievements in mind, and work hard towards improving yourself
to reach them. If you follow somebody else's expectations you might be
setting a standard, either too high or too low. I'm sure a person individually
knows what standards he must set and try and achieve them, and keep improving
his standards. That's the rule I follow and so it doesn't put any additional
pressure on me.
Like Srinath, Kumble,
Prasad and Joshi, all of whom are from Banglore, you also stay away from
controversies and all of you do not court the media. Is this self-restraint
or just a part of the South Indian psyche?
I don't think this only
applies to the four of us from Banglore. If you have observed, most Indian
cricketers avoid controversies and are pretty well behaved both on and
off the field. I think the image of Indian cricket is pretty clean thanks
to players of all the states. Because we're contracted, there are a lot
of media restrictions. We're not supposed to talk to the media when we
are on tour, or when we're playing cricket. Because of this we tend not
to really mix too much with the media.
I like reading and listening
to music and going out with friends. I'm quite a voracious reader and lay
my hand on all kinds of books/magazines. Normally at any particular point
of time I always have a book or a magazine in hand and I just find that
relaxes me more than watching television. As far as listening to music
is concerned, I've nothing in particular. I listen to slow English rock
like Sting or Phil Collins and Chris de Burgh.
Do you miss staying away
from home for long periods of time, now that the schedules are so crowded?
Cricket is a way of life,
and now I've got so used to being away from home for long periods of time
and not being in Banglore much. I've got used to this sort of lifestyle.
I mean, you do tend to miss your family and home sometimes. But you've
got to accept the fact that if you want to play cricket at the international
level or at the highest level, which I want to, then you've got to make
a few sacrifices. You cannot have everything your way. These are sacrifices
I'm willing to make to achieve success at the highest level.
Even though you still
have quite a few years of cricket left in you, have you contemplated on
life after cricket?
I've not really put my mind
to it as I still think I have a few years of cricket ahead of me and want
to concentrate totally on it. Hopefully after I finish my cricket, I might
still have the job, or maybe I will do something cricket-related. But you
never know what the future holds for you.
Your cool temperament
is regarded as ideal captaincy material. Have you ever thought about it?
I've never aspired to become
a captain of any particular team. I've other goals and ambitions. I've
other goals and ambitions. Becoming a captain has never been my ambition.
I mean, if it comes along then that's great. But I really don't think so.
At the moment, you know Azhar is doing such a fantastic job. And then we've
people like Ajay, Sachin and Anil along the line. And Saurav as well. So
captaincy is a long way and it's not at all important to me.
What exactly is your role
in the Save Tiger project for which you advertise?
We only lend our names for
this project and are not too involved in it. We’ve done that video promotion
wherein we just try to make people aware that the forests need to be conserved
and the habitat protected. I love wild life and I love going into the forests.
It's like a hobby which we are trying to help do something about.