February 25, 2022: The Pink Slip in the corporate world is a dreaded written or verbal message indicating that one has lost ones job and it’s time to move on. In cricket, the Pink would naturally denote ‘Night Cricket’ and ‘Slip’ as an important fielding position especially when playing cricket at dusk.
Cricket may be a sport; however, it is gradually developing into a big-business enterprise. The growth of the digital world has brought about a revolution in the way the game is being followed. A cricketer being the centrepiece of this gigantic change has become the pawn to king or a vice-versa story.
The way cricket-related issues have changed can be perceived when the present Indian cricket coach, Rahul Dravid, was the one who delivered a Pink Slip to Wriddhiman Saha. He informed him that his days as a Test cricketer are over and it is time for him to retire. Saha, like many second-choice wicketkeepers who suffered in the past, remained in the shadow of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He was, thereafter, superseded by the flamboyant Rishabh Pant. His last stint in the Test match against the world champion side, New Zealand, was a fighting knock under immense pain as he had a severe neck ache. Saha has played 40 Test matches for India and definitely deserved a better and more honourable way to have been given the exit message.
Surprisingly, the coach was the messenger boy who delivered the Pink Slip to not just Wriddhiman Saha but, one gathers, also to some of the other ageing stalwarts. One understands that there is a time when one has to ‘hang up ones boots’ but for a coach rather than a selector to inform one is not the correct way to do so. The primary function of any coach is to mentor, motivate, encourage, advise and give direction to his players. The coach is the one who gets the selected team together as a fighting unit and extracts the best from each one of them.
The domain of selecting and dropping of a player is the responsibility of the selectors and it would have been prudent for Rahul Dravid to stay away from being made into the hatchet man.
Furthermore, interestingly enough, Wriddhiman Saha mentioned that the BCCI president had given him the assurance that he would not be dropped as long as he is at helm of the BCCI. This was quite astonishing and disturbing for one to learn, as to why a person of the calibre of Sourav Ganguly should get involved in making such a comment. Saha, after making these allegations was apparently, threatened and pressurised by a journalist, whose name he refuses to divulge. However, the cricket fraternity is buzzing with the name of who the person is. However, as the saying goes, ‘Silence is Golden’.
One should give kudos to Saha for revealing what he went through. Virat Kohli earlier fell victim to a similar exchange of words and one felt that India’s leading batsman was mentally affected by it.
Like all the billions of people living in our universe, present-day cricketers too have access to the transparent digital media and instant world. Professionalism in all areas of operations has become important in the running of every cricket board. Australian cricket experienced it, when a Pink Slip was given to their cricket coach, Justin Langer. His high-handed, headstrong views and attitude was not appreciated by the present lot of Australian players. He was, therefore, given the marching orders. The cricket fraternity was rife with stories about it.
This is an example of the direction in which the world is rapidly changing and the way the younger generation perceives and thinks about their lives and future. The old school of thought has given rise to people wanting a well-balanced and fulfilling personal existence. The corporate and business world is seeing attrition and employees are now insisting on spending quality time with their families as well as taking time off for themselves.
In cricket, one can see a similar attitude and the bio-bubble has further played its part. In the past, it would have been unheard of players taking a break, as Kohli and Pant have done so recently.
Cricket will go through a drastic change in relation to the attitude of cricketers towards the sport.
The various T20 leagues around the world, one feels, will make Test cricket redundant. Cricketers’ earnings have grown substantially because of playing in the shorter limited-overs cricket circus. The recent IPL auction was a good indicator as to the direction a young cricketer of tomorrow will take.
A slam-bang approach to the way they play the game as well as live their lives seems to be written in bold letters. The Pink Slip may have been a dreaded word earlier, but, it will not be one that would worry them. Youngsters will find other avenues to pursue in the fast-paced world that one is moving in at present.
One hopes that Wriddhiman Saha, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma and many others approaching the late 30s realise the its adieu; the Pink Slip has arrived.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)