Cricketers better than others at handling rifts

By Anjum Chopra

Victory is something sportspersons always yearn for. They engulf themselves in the process of achieving it at all cost. Be it a club level match or a world championship, the process and routines for preparations remain the same for champions.

World Cups, Olympics are such pinnacles of international competition that every sportsperson dreams of achieving success in them. It can take years and years of relentless hard work and dedication to climb this mountain before you earn the honour of raising the national flag atop. Because it is not the simplest and easiest dream to achieve -- we falter. That's when we realise that we have 'failed' in our accomplishment.

No one prepares to fail but that is where the education of sports lies. Sports teaches us how to succeed. Then it educates us about failure and then how to overcome failure to succeed. That is the journey and will continue to remain so in this field.

In the recent events, news from the Olympic camp emerged about the defeat of ace shooter Manu Bhaker due to malfunction of the equipment. Then about the unpleasant atmosphere prevalent within the group.

I must confess that I am no expert in shooting and have never shot in the range, and I am not privy to technicalities. But in a competition, doesn't a shooter keep a ready to use backup weapon, like a ready match bat. Am unsure about the number of competition weapons that can be carried along but you don't want to be caught in a situation where you get to bat against a fast bowler without a helmet or a bat. A batter always carries extra bats in his kit bag. They all might not be the favourite match bats, but are tried and tested beforehand and remain ready for an emergency use.

One thing that I always admire about the Indian cricket team dressing room is that whatever happens inside, remains inside. It might percolate a bit later but never does the full story get revealed in public domain, until made so. After missing out on a probable medal in shooting, stories of rift within the group emerged.

The unpleasantness and negative impact made headlines along with the blame game. It is always good to reflect on the situation and take corrective measures, but timing is key. It becomes distasteful and reflects poorly on the stakeholders. Often, even after the dust settles down for the rest, the story remains tagged with the player, sometimes forever.

I can openly admit that I have been part of team chats and discussions that have seen the worst of situations emerge. In fact, during a World Cup, it led to the Indian team losing a match too as what was to be a pep talk actually shattered our confidence. But yes, it was later discussed in isolation and addressed appropriately.

Sometimes it is best to just put your hand up in defeat as we do in victory. The time for threadbare analysis will always be there but it is that crucial moment that requires delicate handling, with a cautious approach.

Talking about Olympics, there is a buzz around that cricket will be part of the Games in 2028 or 2032, which will be great for the sport. This will enhance the stature of the game in countries which don't have a history of cricket. That is because government grants are easier to come for Olympic disciplines in many countries and that is how the game will benefit in non-traditional markets.

Cricket has been played in the Asian Games and is now returning to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year. Men's ODIs were part of the schedule in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 while women's T20Is will feature in Birmingham. Being part of these multi-discipline events is the pathway to the Olympics and it is happy to note that women's cricket is playing a crucial part in that!

(Anjum Chopra is a former Indian woman Test cricketer)




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