Column | An eleven full of multifaceted players

Imran Khan
Imran Khan is the first cricketer to become the prime minister of a country. File photo: AFP

What do international cricketers do once their playing days are over? These days there are many options to remain associated with the game. Thus, many have taken up coaching, some have turned to umpiring and its new cousin refereeing, while the most have chosen to move to the commentators box. But there are many who chose to traverse a different path and followed careers in entirely different fields, not connected with the game. This column proposes to examine some instances where cricketers came out successful after following a different career option. Here is an attempt to create a cricketing eleven from among them.

Navjot Singh Sidhu

After starting his Test career as a “strokeless wonder” in 1983, Sidhu metamorphosed into “Sixer Sidhu” when he returned to the India team for the 1987 ICC World Cup. He  remained a fixture as the opening batsman in the side for the most part till he bid adieu from the international arena in 1999. He was a murderer of spin bowling and his passion for playing lofted shots that cleared the grounds made him a favourite of the crowds. After his cricketing days, Sidhu took to the commentary box,
but soon turned to politics. He was elected as a Member of Parliament from Amritsar in Punjab in 2004 and represented that constituency for two terms. He subsequently became minister for tourism and local bodies in Punjab as a member of Congress government and served for two years till 2019. He also hosts television shows where his pithy one liners have made him a popular personality.

Adam Parore

Navjot Sindhu
Navjot Singh Sidhu has turned a successful politician and TV personality after quitting cricket. File photo

Former New Zealand wicketkeeper Adam Parore played 78 Tests for the country during the period from 1990 to 2002. He was the first cricketer from Maori tribe to play international cricket.

He was also a competent batsman who could hold his place solely on the basis of his batting skills, when Lee Germon took his place behind the stumps during the mid 1990s. After his retirement, he set up a sports clothing company with his girlfriend Sally Ridge, who was a leading television personality. After the pair broke up, he started Adam Parore Mortgages, where he is the Managing Director. In between, he also climbed Mount Everest in 2011, thus becoming the first cricketer to scale the highest peak in the world.

Ajit Wadekar

Safe pair of gloves
Adam Parore stumps Australia's Colin Miller during the Auckland Test of 2000. File photo: AFP

Wadekar was the skipper who led India to two successive series wins abroad - against the West Indies and England - in 1971. India completed a hat-trick of victories under his leadership when they defeated England in the 1972-73 home series. He was also an aggressive left-handed batsman, who could tear the bowling apart with his unorthodox, yet highly effective, strokeplay. For a person with a self confessed “head for mathematics”, it was not surprising that Wadekar enjoyed a successful second innings as a banker after his sudden retirement from all forms of cricket in September, 1974, in the wake of the disastrous tour of England that year. He served his employer, State Bank of India, with distinction and rose to the level of General Manager, when he was summoned to become the coach of the national team in 1992. He had a successful run as coach, before quitting in 1996.

Nathan Astle

Astle was a top performer with the bat for New Zealand during an 11-year career that started in 1996. He was an attacking batsman, with a wide range of strokes all around the wicket, and a useful medium-pacer. He holds the record for hitting the fastest double century in Test cricket - off just 153 balls- against England at Christchurch in 2002. Hence, it was not surprising that he decided to start a new career as an auto racing driver after his retirement in 2007. He finished third in the South Island Sprint Car Championship in 2010.

Imran Khan

One of the greatest cricketers produced by Pakistan, Imran strode the international cricket arena like a colossus during the 1980s. He was a complete all-rounder who could bowl at terrifying pace while as a batsman he played with a straight bat, cutting out all  flamboyance. But it was as captain of Pakistan, whose players were highly talented but intensely mercurial, he made his mark. His crowning moment was winning the ICC World Cup in 1992, when he led the side back from the brink of being ousted from the championship to the victors' podium. He set up a cancer hospital in the memory of his mother after quitting the game but turned to politics soon afterwards. He learnt his way through the badlands of Pakistani politics and finally formed the right relations and equations that could take him to power. He has achieved what no other cricketer could - becoming the prime minister of a nation, in August, 2018.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff was one of the biggest cricketing icons that England has produced in recent years and the manner in which he inspired the win over Australia in the 2005 Ashes series would always remain etched in the minds of the followers of the game. A hard-hitting batsman and a fast bowler who could generate express pace, he could swing the game by his effective interventions both with the bat and ball. At 6 foot 4 inches and weighing 17 stones, he was a colourful personality who symbolised flamboyance and was a crowd-puller on the cricket field. After his retirement from the game, he took up an entirely new profession - professional boxing - and showed his skills and competitiveness by defeating Richard Dawson of the US on his debut. After leaving behind this career, he is presently focusing on real estate business.

Henry Olonga

Olonga was the first black cricketer to play for Zimbabwe in international cricket. He was a lively fast bowler though he tended to be erratic. The Indian fans would remember him disrupting the Men in Blue's campaign in the ICC World Cup in 1999, when he stole a victory for Zimbabwe in their group game. During the 2003 World Cup, he created history when he wore a black armband to mark his protest against the lack of democracy in his country. This made him a persona non grata in Zimbabwe and also ended his international cricket career. His cheerful demeanour and positive attitude had won him a huge fan following, which made his transition to the commentary box easy. But he did not rest with that and turned to music, where he released an album named “Aurelia” in 2006 and was also a popular participant in an Australian musical reality show.

Joginder Sharma

India were reluctant participants in the first ever ICC World T20 in 2007, but emerged as surprise winners. In a nail-biting finish, India defeated Pakistan by five runs to clinch the title. No one who watched the final would forget the last over of the game bowled by Jogender Sharma, who kept his cool and dismissed Misbah-ul-Haq, just when the Pakistani batsman appeared to have secured the championship for his country. As his luck would have it, this was the last time Sharma played for the country. He was a useful all-rounder in the domestic circuit but could not get going in the international arena. After his playing days were over, Sharma focused on his career in Haryana Police and is presently posted as Deputy Superintendent of Police in Kurukshetra district.

Salil Ankola

Joginder Sharma
Joginder Sharma, third left, celebrates with teammates after a claiming an Austraian wicket in the 2007 World T20 semifinals. AFP

Films and cricket are the two fields having the highest glamour quotient in India. Many cricketers, who have represented the country, have married stars from the tinsel world, thus cementing a close relationship between the two. Some of the players had also tried out their hand in acting during their playing days, the most famous of them being Sandeep Patil, who starred in the Hindi movie “Kabhi Ajnabee The”, which unfortunately did not do well at the box office. Salil Ankola joined Bollywood after his playing days and performed moderately well. The tall, good looking fast bowler from Mumbai played one Test and 13 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), with limited success, and was also part of the Indian squad for the 1996 ICC World Cup. He survived a cancer of shin bone, which forced him to leave his career in cricket.

He acted in many TV serials and some movies besides being a contestant on the popular reality show “Big Boss” in its first season. He is now more into production of TV serials.

Curtly Ambrose

Ambrose was the most fearsome fast bowler to emerge from the Caribbean islands after the 1980s. During his heyday, he formed a successful partnership with new-ball partner Courtney Walsh, that won respect from the best of batsmen the world over. His spell of 7/1 against Australia at Perth in 1993 remains one of the most destructive ones in the annals of the game.

After his retirement, Ambrose left cricket for good and focused on a career in singing. He is a reggae musician and plays in many bands - Spirited, Baldhead etc - in his native Antigua.

King Curtly
Curtly Ambrose was the spearhead of the West Indian attack in the 90s. File photo: AFP

Dilip Doshi

After languishing for many years under the shadow of the legendary Bishan Singh Bedi, Doshi finally got his chance to play international cricket in 1979, at the age of 32. He was an instant success and reached the 100 wicket mark in his 28th Test. During the tour of Australia in 1980-81, he showed tremendous courage in bowling in the second innings of the third Test despite suffering a fractured toe. He hid this fact from the team management and helped the side register a shock 43-run win over their more fancied opponents at the MCG. He was dropped from the national team after the tour of Pakistan in 1982-83 and had a public fallout with Sunil Gavaskar, which did not help his cause. After his retirement, Doshi joined the family business, Entrack International, and introduced Mont Blanc pens in India. Presently, the company has 17 boutiques spread all over the country selling these designer pens.

Note: This is not the most balanced side as one would find that there is a surfeit of all-rounders and fast bowlers in it and too few batsmen and spinners. But the quality of players in the side would make it a difficult one to beat. And on top of that they would be led by Imran, a charismatic skipper, who has earned his spurs as one of the best captains that the game has seen.

(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)

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