I came from a very conservative Bengali family with little exposure to life. Cricket taught me about life in all its shades and colours. For my first piece on LinkedIn, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learnt on my journey, one for each of my professional decades:
#1 A lesson from my 20s: Throw revenge in the trash can
In your life you may often come across people who will harm you and hinder your growth. I experienced this especially when I was a young player struggling to make it big. A lot of us – and I was no exception to this at one point of time – think of taking revenge to settle the score.
Today, as a happily retired middle-aged cricketer, I would advise you not to resort to revenge. You will only be wasting energy and, more importantly, precious time.
I would urge all young professionals to channel that energy into their own well-being. Be the best that you can be. I have lived all my life with detractors. The only way to deal with them is to be so good at your work that they fall by the wayside. Bettering your performance is the best revenge that you can award your enemy.
#2 A lesson from my 30s: Be the boss of pressure
In my career there were moments when the pressure seemed unbearable. In 2001, when I became the captain of a demoralized, broken team, that pressure hit the roof. Yet I never ran away from it. Pressure will be with you as long as you continue to set targets and break barriers. The rule of the professional jungle is that to win battles you have to embrace pressure and not get frightened.
A good two to three years into retirement, I was playing a Veterans series organized by Tendulkar and Warne in America. All the top stars were playing, and I couldn’t score any runs in the first match. This was not surprising as my stint with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) allowed me virtually no time for practice.
I could have easily avoided any pressure for the second match of the series in Los Angeles as it would not have added to my tally of international scores. Nor would anyone have remembered. But I decided to push myself as I did during my playing days, took the additional pressure and got runs in the second match.
As I said, it did not change anything. Not a single run was added to my tally. But deep inside there was enormous satisfaction for handling pressure successfully yet again. Pressure is like a wild horse. Difficult to tame but once you manage to do it, the skill set remains with you.
#3 A lesson from my 40s: Say goodbye with grace
For a lot of players, handling retirement has not been easy. I have, however, thought positively all along. In my generation of Indian players, I was the fastest one to reach 900 runs in one-day cricket. Only the third player in the world to take 10,000 runs and 100 wickets. Captain of 200 games for India. One of the top 3 in Indian cricket to have played 100 tests and 300 one-dayers. I could leave with my head held very high.
Of course, I would be parting from the thing I loved best. We cricketers live a full, action-packed life. In the last two decades, I had experienced so much. Rejections, my debut hundred, being ousted, taken back as captain, not picked at the auction, picked as captain again.
As I was busy packing my bags after my last match at Nagpur, I told myself, there was a bigger part of life still to be lived. And enjoyed. Even the greatest of athletes had to embrace retirement. Sampras, Lara, Tendulkar, Maradona. The best part was that we left the sport when we were relatively young.
The road ahead is wide open for me. Only cricket has finished. Life is calling me for a much longer and challenging second innings. Umpire, middle stump, please.