Miss watching your favourite players in action?
With the Indian Premier League (IPL) postponed indefinitely, like the rest of us, Indian cricketers too are doing laundry, cooking and eating chocolate. We check in on them…
For Suresh Raina, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, COVID-19 has rekindled memories of time spent at the Sports Hostel in Kanpur, where he was training to become a cricketer.
“Cooking, washing clothes, cleaning floors were an integral part of my daily chores at the hostel. COVID-19 has taught us all some harsh lessons in life that we had forgotten or chosen to ignore. I am lucky to be able to have a home where I am looking after my family but I am deeply pained by the misery around,” says Raina.
Used to a hectic lifestyle of living out of a suitcase for 10 months a year and performing in front of thousands of spectators at packed stadiums, Raina settles down to reflect on his life and career.
“Cricket is not on my mind really. Most of the day is taken away by my daughter (Gracia) and newborn son (Rio),” he says. Apart from meditation, yoga and exercises, Raina loves one particular daily routine. “Combing my daughter’s hair. [My children] keep me very busy and I just love it when they demand attention. Seeing my daughter grow is such a lovely feeling. I have to be at her service 24×7,” he adds.
The Porsche he drove around in Chennai during the IPL is not in his garage any more.
“Once I took my father for a drive in the Porsche. He said nothing but sold it off after convincing me. Not because he needed money. He wanted me to be safe. ‘Too fast’ was what he did not like about the car. I now have five sports cycles for the family. There is one of Tour de France standard.”
Shikhar Dhawan is known to make bowlers dance to his tunes at the crease. With COVID-19 confining him to the serene ambience of his home, Shikhar has discovered new ways to keep himself engaged, and a flute has come to replace the bat.
“I have two compartments in my life — cricket and family. Now it is just family. Cricket will be there whenever we resume playing. Until then, it will be my family and me. And of course my love for playing the flute,” says Shikhar, who plays for Delhi Capitals in the IPL, adding that he always wanted to learn to play the flute.
“My guru is Shri Venugopal of Dharwar. I have been taking lessons from him since 2015 and I am pleased with my progress. I have maintained my daily schedule of training, gym work, meditation, cooking, cleaning and washing like everyone else but my sessions of learning the flute are the ones I look forward to.”
Shikhar has specialised in some of the raagas and the flute weans him away from the negativity that has gripped people. For him, setting aside time to play with his six-year-old son Zoravar is “special”. This “bonding” with the family is to be “cherished”, he asserts.
“I love spirituality. It teaches you the values of being a good human being. There is so much to learn and enjoy. Why sulk at things beyond your control? There is no place for despondency in my life.”
Dhawan signs off with a promise. “Someday I would love to play the flute for you at a concert.”
These are tough times. Unlike the daunting challenges of a situation on the cricket field, the COVID-19 pandemic has left the world of sport bleeding.
Cricket stadiums in India would have been reverberating with the applause of packed audiences at the IPL matches, but they have all gone silent now. Cricketers have opted to various methods to stay focused with a hope that competitions may resume in the near future.
The captain of Kolkata Knight Riders, Dinesh Karthik, is optimistic too.
He has a daily schedule in place with slots reserved for training. “And a slot reserved for Coco Chanel, my four-year-old doggie. I love the affection and loyalty in the eyes of Coco,” he says.
“COVID-19 has allowed me to spend quality time with my family. I am spending more time with my dad (V Krishnakumar) who is [otherwise] abroad most of the time.”
The wicketkeeper batsman says he has learnt an important thing in these challenging times.
“The resilience and the ability of humans to fight amidst everything. People suffering has been the hardest to deal with for me, I don’t know if the things I do matter for the people who are struggling. I only want them to have the strength to get through these tough times,” he says.
On the lighter side, Karthik has rediscovered an old habit from his childhood. “My love for chocolates,” he says, adding, “I am good at stealing them when my wife goes to sleep.”
Hinaya Heer is Harbhajan Singh’s “best friend” and he just adores her. The three-year-old is the “fairy” who has brought such “joy” to his life, he says.
“My daughter is my world and I am loving every moment that I get to spend with her,” says the jovial off-spinner.
Harbhajan says that he has learnt to live differently in these testing times.
“My day is dictated by Hinaya. She keeps me on my toes. She has learned a card game called UNO, and I have to play it endlessly. It is an interesting game and becomes all the more interesting because of the rules that she sets. Anyone can win, but in my house only Hinaya wins. That’s how the game pans out. I love losing (to her) actually,” Harbhajan says.
He is also using the time to learn cooking.
“It has become a hobby now. I have picked up quite a few recipes such as bhindi aamchuri, aloo gobi, arbi with gravy and dal with different tadkas. I have been experimenting too with my cooking and have earned the appreciation of (wife) Geeta. I have come a long way from having corn flakes for dinner when I was playing county cricket in England,” says Harbhajan.
On not being able to play IPL for CSK, Harbhajan says, “There is a beautiful life outside cricket and I am discovering it with my family. Yes, I miss the sport but I also realise that these are exceptional circumstances where cricket can’t be your priority. I am very distressed at the plight of the poor who are struggling to stay afloat.”
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed him to spend a lot of time with his family.
He says this has not been possible over the last 15 years when he was working on being a cricketer, and travelling constantly. “The best thing now is that I am getting home food which I missed all these years. This phase, I can say, is kind of a family reunion. My sister has also not been able to go back to Australia and we have so much to talk about with our parents,” he says.
Ensconced within his newly-built home in Gurugram, the former National under-12 champion who also represented India at the World Youth Chess Championship in Greece before cricket became an obsession, says, “Cricket kept me busy but, of late, I have been playing online chess and challenging my father (Krishan Kumar Chahal) to a few contests. In fact, I did two charity events for chess. I have been doing a lot of other things like watching videos of my old matches to stay motivated and learning to dance. Then there are the workouts too.”
When he is not busy with the family, Chahal spends time with his pets — Groot and Scotty, a black Retriever and a German Shepherd. “I just love to play with them.”