From fairytale to reality
In roughly a month from now, Sachin Tendulkar will put on his batting pads for one final time. Millions of 20, 30 or 40 somethings will have to confront the day they have dreaded for years. We will be faced with a near impossible task of leading life after Tendulkar.
It’s going to be tough to let him go. But how will it be for him to let cricket go? In his retirement statement, Sachin Tendulkar said, “It’s hard for me to imagine a life without playing cricket because it’s all I have ever done since I was 11 years old.” The sentiment behind that sentence goes much deeper than we, the outsiders, can ever hope to understand.
We, at bcci.tv, made an attempt to understand, anyway, by speaking to a man who has played 105 Test matches for his country and is now involved in coaching young cricketers as well as corporate speaking. Justin Langer, after talking about the phenomenon of mental toughness in Part One of his interview with us, reveals what a professional sportsman goes through after hanging his boots.
What is the toughest thing about retirement in sports?
Sport is the only profession in the world where you still have to work after you retire. Professional sport is a fairytale; it’s not a real existence. You get paid all this money to play your favourite game and you’ve got all these adoring fans. The day you stop, you get to the real world and that’s scary. You’ve got to do something for the remaining 40 years of your life. You can’t spend all those years sitting in your chair, smoking cigars and sipping on pina coladas.
Is it tough to also maintain the lifestyle that you’ve become so used to for all these years?
Initially finance is not an issue because when you retire after a long career, you’ve earned enough money. But eventually, the money too dries up. If you have a big house, you still need to run it and if you have a big car, you have to buy fuel. You have to send your children to school. I recently read that 78 per cent of the NFL players go bankrupt within five years of retirement. These are the people who earn insane amounts of money.
Do successful sportsmen also suffer from identity crisis after retirement?
I learned a great lesson the year I retired (in 2007). I was asked by Ricky Ponting and Tim Nelson to come and work with the Australian cricket team and it was a very nice apprenticeship in coaching. Some of the kids in that team had played one or two games. And the fans didn’t want my autograph anymore. They were all after those new guys in the team. That was a lesson in humility. They adore you as long as you come on the TV. If you’re not on the TV anymore, you’ve got to work.
Do you miss that adrenaline rush that you get from performing in front of huge crowds under pressure?
Oh, yes! I do a lot of corporate speaking now and that’s where I get my buzz. Every time I get on the stage, I am very nervous. The moment I say my first line, my ice-breaker, I am in my flow; I’m performing. It’s a wonderful feeling but still, it’s nothing compared to the feeling of scoring a hundred or walking past that white line at the MCG on the morning of the Boxing Day. It’s hard to get it in life now. But the best thing is that I have experienced it and no one can take it away from me. I know what it feels like, it’s like ecstasy and I am thankful that I got to feel that as a human. I miss that fight, that competition when taking on someone like an Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh or an Ian Bishop. It’s scary but you know you’re alive. It’s so scary and that’s why it’s so beautiful.
Gary Kirsten once said, “In cricket, like in life, you’ll get more bad days than good ones. So, if you can handle cricket, you can handle life.”
I couldn’t agree more. I was telling our team manager the other day that the brilliant thing about living a cricket career is that now I am up for anything that life throws at me. I’ve learned how it feels like to fail and succeed. Dealing with media has taught me how to deal with other people’s opinion of me. I’ve learned how to deal with making money and being nervous ahead of a big day. With the principles that I have learned as a cricketer I know everything is going to be okay, as long as I keep doing the right things. There will be ups and downs. Something I’ve learned from Steve Waugh is that you should neither get too high or too low. Try and maintain the tempo. Having said that you’ve got to celebrate success as well. If you’ve had a good day, enjoy it because like Gary said, you’ll have more bad than good days. So, go for a nice meal or give yourself a nice little gift, catch up with some friends.
Another thing I’ve learned through cricket is that you’ve got to be honest – with others and with yourself. You’ve got to have good, strong work ethic. That’s when you earn respect, which is the most precious thing you can have. I had dinner with Anil Kumble and John Wright the other day and we could feel the mutual respect we had for each other. We don’t necessary know each other but we have respect for each other. That’s a very nice feeling.