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'Not enough visibility for India's domestic players'
The lure of the IPL drives young players to build themselves as brands, even before their techniques are perfected. When they fail, the scramble to make the quick buck reaches tipping point.
The emergence of lower-rung cricketers as leading players in the spot fixing and betting scandal in the IPL reveals a pattern where the race to make a mark in the moneyed world of the T20 league can lead to corruption.
Scratch a domestic cricketer's mind, and the theory only becomes all the more obvious. "The IPL does help you enhance your lifestyle, " says a veteran of six seasons of domestic cricket. "If a domestic player claims that he doesn't care about losing his contract, he would be lying, " says the player who doesn't want to be named.
The player explains the difference in level between the domestic cricket and a lucrative T20 league. "Ranji Trophy gave me a stable life compared to my days as a beginner in cricket, but an IPL contract has given a better life and living up to it becomes a challenge. I have been around in the domestic circuit for six-seven years but I believed it was taking me nowhere. As a result, things like signing an agent became a necessity for me. I now realise that my performances in Ranji Trophy got me the contract and I need to work hard on my game to live up to it. Sadly, a few don't realise this, " he says.
"Maybe, this is where people slip into malpractices as they hardly have any idea where to draw a line when dealing through agents, " he adds. "Smaller agents and bookies target these smaller players since they are aware of the disparity and believe they can they can exploit them, " he emphasises.
The competition has just got more intense, and eventually, it comes down to the rhetoric jo dikhta hain, wohi bikta hain (One who enjoys the greater visibility, enjoys the greater market space). "The visibility of Indian domestic players is far too less, " says the cricketer lamentably. He adds: "The domestic tournaments, over the years, haven't got enough space in TV channels. Whereas, England's county cricket and Australian league has always been fed to the public here.
That's the reason why he feels, "the foreign domestic players get more value in the Indian league. And all that feeling of disparity creeps into players here for whom cricket is the one major way to have a better than a decent living. "
"For example, India's under-19 World Cup winning captain Unmukt Chand's agent has been able to build his brand thanks to his innings in the final which was watched by a lot of people. But the same agent has players like Robin Bist, Mayank Siddana who have scored consistently on the domestic circuit for two years, but hasn't been able to do anything special for them, " the cricketer reckoned while pointing that most of the convicted players are in their late 20s and early 30s.
Perhaps, that only adds to the desperation to negate the glaring disparity in the salary caps amongst the international domestic players and the ones in India.
So, does having an agent become imperative? An IPL player who earned his contract last season and made it to the fringes of the national team, thanks to a good Ranji season preceding that, says the situation leads you to believe that you can't do a thing without a PR agent behind you. "For instance, if a player with strong PR scores well in one IPL innings or takes a fivewicket haul, he will be all over the media space for two, three days. But consistent performers always fear that they will be dropped for one bad day, " the player says, echoing the fears of his lot who have been on the fringes for a while now.
Delhi & District Cricket Association vicepresident Chetan Chauhan feels that having managers early in young cricketers careers, has become imperative only because the players don't like to take the long hard way to success. "The IPL has led to this mindset. It is considered a shortcut to money and fame. The notion amongst the players is that if a teammate has an agent, then he ought to have one for himself. They are not ready to put in five-six years of patient hard work that can actually get you an India cap, " says the former India opener.
The old-timer advocates patience, a hallmark of cricketing temperament. "Even in India, if a player does well through his domestic season, he does get to play in Irani Cup and the Challenger trophy one-dayers. These are shown on TV. The franchise scouts are also going around the country during these tournaments and just not at the IPL. The players have to understand that they will get the ancillaries like agents and sponsors once they reach the top level. Instead, few of them go berserk and lose their focus, often getting desperate to break into the IPL.
Chauhan alludes to the growing theory that it is those who are desperate for such a crossover as the ones usually succumb to such corruption as fixing and hobnobbing with bookies.
To avoid these traps, Chauhan suggests that parents and the childhood coaches stay in touch with the players at all times.
"The BCCI should reconsider the salary caps and if possible raze the system. Parents and coaches should crack down on players who seek to make too much money. As DDCA officials, we will from now talk to every player and their agent and keep them in check."
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