Two news items started me thinking about how easy it is to exit and enter cricket from/to other sports:
1. Usain Bolt has said that he would like to find something new to motivate him — be it football, or possibly cricket in Australia.
2. This Slate post on America’s Olympics medal haul outlines some of the factors behind America’s medal dominance, and concludes:
While American track athletes might not be as speedy as Usain Bolt or as hammer-tastic as Krisztián Pars, they’re still good enough to take home a decent haul. As long as the NBA and the NFL exist, American youth will spend their childhoods trying to run really fast, jump really high, and throw things really far.
The suggestion here is that American kids don’t initially start with track and field in mind; instead, they migrate there after putting aside their basketball/football dreams. The secondary implication is that there are transferable skills — running fast will help you a lot in both basketball and football, but it also works pretty well in track and field. But does this relationship hold for cricket? If Indian kids want to grow up to be cricketers, do they have any options in other sports once/if their dreams are dashed? (In other words: Are Indians doomed to under-perform at the Olympics if cricket holds its sway?)
I don’t see all that much transfer in cricket (beyond baseball, of course). To be a good cricketer requires a fair amount of stamina and fitness and concentration — all useful for an athlete — but it doesn’t really help all that much if you run fast, or throw things really far, or jump really high. Indeed, to prosper, you really need specialized skills — how to bowl spin, for example, or how to swing a ball, or having a defensive technique. Perhaps the higher education analogy works: cricket requires technical training (in engineering, or medicine, or whatever), while other sports only need a liberal arts degree (with a broad ability that allows you to train in anything).
Or do you think I have this all wrong? Haven’t there been many reports of cricketers changing their skill through their career? Didn’t Agarkar, for example, start out as a batsman? Didn’t Pietersen do off-spin initially? If they can more from bowling to batting, surely they can move from cricket to sprints? Is the problem merely that talented Indian would-be sportsmen don’t consider other sports (because cricket is so big in India), or that once they go down the cricket path, they can’t reverse and try out for something else? What good is a googly in the modern world?