Second Innings: The afterlife of the cricketing departed
“Sports is the only profession I know that when you retire, you have to go to work.” -Earl Monroe
I can only contemplate what it must feel like – retirement. Bidding adieu to the thing that you did day in and day out for the most part of your life, is most certainly not something that you would look forward to. The uncertainty felt when the tranquillity of the familiar is taken away is enough to crack even the toughest of the toughest. It is thus no wonder that after retirement, so many cricketers have reportedly confessed to being depressed and over a hundred have even succumbed to it. But where there is a shadow, there is light. What to some is a bottomless void is to others a treasure trove of unexplored possibilities. Here’s a list of professions that the veterans of cricket keep themselves busy with post-retirement:
Non-playing cricketing staff: I wish I could find a classier term to describe what encompasses the wide range of professions from coaching, selectors, board personnel, commentators to match officials. With all the IPLs, BBLs and What-not-Leagues out there, it really is one thriving industry. And boy is it lucrative! Although this industry has a long tradition of cricketing legends who were never fully able to outgrow the influence that the game they loved had on them, it is the recent developments in cricket that really catapulted this to where it stands. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is a haven to more than half of contemporary cricket’s retired.
Politics: Had we not counted selectors and board personnel in the above category, this group would easily have given Non-playing cricket staff a run for their money. Although being a decent cricketer in the national side inherently means celebrity status is a given, there is one additional element in those who really flourish in politics – charisma; and most certainly the long list of ex-cricketers turned politicians like Imran Khan, Navjot Singh Siddhu, Arjun Rantunga, Mohammed Azharuddin, Vinod Kambli, Chetan Chauhan are not short on it. If we tweak the definition of politics to include ambassadors, we would also have the Caribbean legends Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, all of whom have been named ambassadors by their respective countries.
Showbiz: Some colorful characters like Vinod Kambli, Navjot Singh Siddhu and Andrew Symonds transcend the domain of charisma, entering the realm of showbiz (non-cricketing of course!) and entertainment. The Big Boss contention aside, all three of them also made a debut as Bollywood actors. Other Indian cricketing legends that walked down the Bollywood lane include Kapil Dev, Ajay Jadeja and Sunil Gavaskar. Speaking of television appearances, Darren Gough, the spearhead of ‘90s English pace attack, danced his way on to the British television; dazzling the English audience with his groovy moves, he went on to win in all three of his appearances on BBC’s “Strictly come dancing”.
Musicians: In the many pages of cricketing annals one would find sporadic instances of musician cricketers, individuals whose artistic expression took more than the form of cricket. The West Indies pace great Curtly Ambrose travels with a reggae band called “The Big Bad Dread and The Bald Head” where he is the bassist. His former captain Richie Richardson also plays bass in the same Antiguan band. Greame Swann is the lead singer of an English rock band called “Dr. Comfort and the Lurid revelations” (What’s with these cricketer bands and long names I wonder!). Henry Olonga, the strike bowler of the Zimbabwean team in its prime, turned classical singer after he was forced into exile following political turmoil in his country. His singing was so well received that he went on to win “The All Star Talent Show” on Channel 5 against some steep competition.
And lastly Mr. One-of-a-kind: What would anyone want after a long and happening career of cricket? A long relaxing break from all the conditioning, training and practice, perhaps? No! Not Mr. Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff. Flintoff wanted to be a pugilist at 35! This truly one-of-a-kind cricketer, after his career as the powerhouse of English cricket team, decided that he wanted to start a career as a professional boxer. His decision created quite the ripples in English boxing ranks. Critics accused him of mocking boxing and called his decision an insult to the sport. Flintoff answered them with a come from the back win in his pro-boxing debut. At 35 and ticking, his boxing career is bound to be short, but this is definitely a man to whom the saying “Today is the beginning of the rest of your life” truly applies.