One of the most experienced active cricketers on the first-class circuit, Sanjay Bangar is a two-time Ranji Trophy – in 2001-02 and in 2004-05, when he led the side – and Irani Trophy winner with Railways. He played 12 Tests and 15 ODIs for India and was part of famous victories from 2001-2003.
It is common sight nowadays to see Indian players who have done well in international event being showered with rewards from their respective states and being given a royal welcome back home. However, to reach to a particular level it not only takes enormous dedication from the player, but he also has to have the right support system outside the playing arena for his physical and emotional well being.
First and foremost among them have to be parents as they make immense sacrifices to allow their child play the sport he loves. It could be financial constraints, where the sport pursued by the child is beyond the financial resources of the parents or it could be shifting place of work/residence close to the place of practice. At some stages, families also have to contemplate shifting cities or states to gain the competitive exposure required for the child. In such cases, the family has to be split up at two stations which causes emotional and financial burden to the family.
The next important person is usually an elder sibling or someone in the family who has played the sport. Usually a sibling, like in the case of Sachin Tendulkar, spots the talent and channelizes the talent in the right direction through his experience. He also provides emotional support when things are not going as desired and at some stage becomes a vigilant critic when the player is being showered with accolades.
Another name that comes to my mind has to be the former India opener Wasim Jaffer, who under the watchful eyes and innumerable throw-downs from his elder brother Kalim, became one of the most prolific run-scorers of his time. Kalim is now working with equal zest on his son, Armaan, who is turning out to be another edition of Wasim.
I am not sure whether it is an advantage to have a successful father in a team sport for upcoming young talent, as in the history of Indian cricket, barring the exception of Yograj Singh and Lala Amarnath, very few sons have been able to make their father proud at international level. I daresay that this could also be due to personal differences between the father and his contemporaries, where proper opportunities are denied to a player who has a burden of a famous surname against his name.
The next character who is subconsciously making an impact on the player's psyche is an idol that the player chooses. Virender Sehwag idolized Sachin, Sachin idolized Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards, Gavaskar idolized ML Jaisimha and so on. The process of idol worship defines a style of play a player wants to associate with.
This is where a coach plays a significant role. He has to ensure that the player develops his own natural style of playing the game and provides technical inputs. He also teaches how to deal with pressure situations in match conditions and helps in effectively dealing with them through constant match practice. In some cases, coaches have to do much more .They have had to extend their residences for providing accommodation to the player, pay their school fees or bail the player's family out of financial crisis. Two names which come to mind are of Dinesh Lad, coach of Rohit Sharma and Naushad Khan, mentor of Iqbal Abdullah. They have done similar things for their wards at the growth stage of their careers.
There are also a few individuals who through their small acts of kindness make a big difference. One such character at Shivaji Park, the nursery of Mumbai cricket, is Rajabhau. He is now in his late seventies but still plays tennis ball cricket. However, despite his limited means, he offered encouragement to all upcoming players by giving them chocolates and homemade sweets when they did well. He also inculcated in the players religious habits of visiting Lord Ganesha temples or reciting of Ganesh Stotra. The beneficiaries of his large heartedness include players like Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Amol Muzumdar, Ajit Agarkar and yours truly to name just a few. Such characters exist close to all cricketing grounds in India and are genuine lovers of the game.
Once you are identified as a performer, you also need to have the support of team coach, captain and senior players or in some cases strong backing from the association to tide over the inevitable rough phases of international careers, or getting those extra opportunities before being discarded into oblivion.
The role of a life partner is also vital in contributing to the player's success. In Indian society, she needs to cope with long period of her husband's absence and also fulfill multiple responsibilities at home. The most important aspect for the player in his mid-twenties is a calm and focused mind to achieve greatness. That can only happen if all the family members are on the same wavelength and they need to keep the career goals as priority. In absence of it, many flowering careers have failed to blossom as combative energies are diverted elsewhere.
Out of all these characters, only the personal coach stands to gain by way of awards, but other members quietly keep on working selflessly towards the dream of a person they love.