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'Success In Your Teens Is Dangerous'

I did not realise it at the time, but I know it now when I can no longer make amends.

'Success In Your Teens Is Dangerous'
When I see recordings of my bowling of the time when I was at the top of my game, I often involuntarily say: "Wow!" I played for India when I was 17, but my Test career ended when I was not even 27. To play 35 Tests for India can be called a success, but I don’t feel that way. Sometimes when I am alone, when I think about my career and what went wrong, I feel I let myself and the fans down.

I believe it was my fault. I wish I had followed the advice I was getting from my coach, Gurcharan Singh, and Bishan Singh Bedi, my mentor. Bishan paaji used to tell me that the more you work in the nets, the better you’d become. He would tell me to bowl for 2-3 hours a session. But when I’d bowled for 15-20 minutes, and bowled well, I thought that was enough.

Unfortunately, there are times when you start thinking you know it all, especially when you are young. I didn’t care to practice much. That’s why I lost my confidence, lost my action. People say drink ruined my career. True, I used to drink, but it was never a problem.

At that age, when a kid thinks he’s a know-all, it’s important to have a sports psychologist who could help him keep his focus. Success is intoxicating at any age. When it comes in your teens, it’s very dangerous. I did not realise it at the time, but I know it now when I can no longer make amends. When I criticise players like Yuvraj or Raina, I have my experience in mind. It hurts that these boys have such talent but they’re not realising it.

I also feel that spinners and batsmen need 2-3 years of first-class cricket before they break into Test cricket. Fast bowlers can be thrown into the thick of it early. I think all cricket academies should have a psychologist to help the children, to tell them that there’s more to life than this game, that failure in cricket doesn’t mean failure in life.

(As told to Outlook)

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