Indian cricket had a historic occasion when it had it's first ever meeting of the newly formed company the "Indian Cricketers Association". For me to be a part of it as a member representative of the ICA was exciting as well as thought provoking.
The platform which is the voice of cricketers, especially the thousands who played the game in India, is an excellent venture, but catering to their expectations will always be a challenge. Indian cricket, through the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and on the recommendation of the Justice Lodha committee, founded an entity, the ICA, to cater to and to look after the welfare and needs of former Indian male and female cricketers.
There have been a few occasions in the past when attempts were made to create a cricketers community, but somehow, they never saw the light of day.
A cricketer in order to make it to the first-class level, goes through many hours of practice and has to encounter countless hardship and difficulties along the way. Every budding cricketer dreams to play for the country. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to do so. India started playing international cricket from the year 1932 and in the 87 years of Test cricket, only 295 cricketers have played for the country.
Many thousands, some of them unlucky not to have played at the highest level, were all a part and parcel of the growth of cricket in India. Many suffered immensely after years of toiling in the sun and after their playing days were over. They were confronted by poverty, health issues related to their playing days as well as depression on account of losing their star image.
Unfortunately, the Indian cricket board then did not have the money to look after them. The passion with which a young cricketer pursued the sport in order to achieve his dream at that time, became a nightmare later on in his life.
A very nice story relayed by India's best-ever all-rounder and the captain of the winning World Cup side of 1983, Kapil Dev, comes to one's mind. He said that he clearly remembers the day when he went to Romi's house (his wife) to meet her father, with a marriage proposal. The to be father-in-law, asked him as to what he does in life. Kapil's reply was crisp and short as he proudly said that he plays cricket. Mr Bhatia's reply was as blunt and honest when he retorted with, yes, I know that, but what work do you do?
That is how cricket was perceived then, as cricketers did get fame, but the game was never one to build a life or to make a fortune.
International Indian cricketers are now paid extremely well and with Sourav Ganguly to head the BCCI soon and with his goal to make the first-class cricketers well paid as well, the present cricketers should be financially comfortable. As much as the former cricketers fell prey to financial difficulties, the generation of the new retired cricketers will need support in managing their various emotional and psychological factors. This is where the ICA will come in by extending a helping hand for all the generations of former cricketers.
Building a cricket community is a wonderful idea, especially as the modern world of easy communication makes connectivity much easier and hence more enjoyable. The ICA is an initiative to create an interactive community of former cricketers who not only keep in touch with each other, but also have a supporting network. Well done BCCI to make it take shape. It is now up to the cricketers to take it further. Long live Indian cricket!