Put caps before cash, Gavaskar tells youngsters

NEW DELHI: Young Indian cricketers should focus on representing their country instead of being lured by the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar has warned.

Mentoring youngsters is vital especially in the age of lucrative Twenty20 tournaments, Gavaskar said while delivering the inaugural Dilip Sardesai lecture in Mumbai in memory of his former Test team-mate.

"Players in the age group of 19-22 are going the wrong way. Younger players get carried away by fame, publicity and success," Gavaskar was quoted as saying by the Indian Express on Friday.

"The worrying factor is far too many youngsters see the IPL as the be-all and end-all. This should not be the case since their ultimate goal should be earning the India cap."

The Twenty20 game has been rapidly growing in popularity in recent times, with the IPL offering lucrative contracts to Indian and foreign players.

India coach Gary Kirsten pointed the finger at the IPL for his team's ouster from the World Twenty20 in England last month, saying it had left players tired.

He said his team was physically and mentally unprepared to defend the title because of the players' IPL involvement.

India, who won the inaugural T20 Worlds in South Africa two years ago, lost all of their three Super Eight matches and were knocked out before the semi-finals.

Gavaskar, the first batsman to complete 10,000 Test runs, said players even skipped domestic matches to participate in the IPL.

"A lot of players miss out on domestic cricket before the IPL to avoid injuries. This is what we have to be very, very careful about," said Gavaskar, who is also a member of the IPL governing council.

The former India captain, who retired in 1987 with 10,122 runs in 125 Tests, said the players also needed to improve their on-field behaviour, especially when they score a century or grab a wicket.

"At times, players use abusive language when they should be acknowledging the applause of the crowd and their team-mates. These days, because of the (TV) replays, it is very easy to lip-read what they are saying," he said.

"Some of them react in macho-style. It's not necessary. (Sachin) Tendulkar and (Rahul) Dravid just look up toward the sky, thank the Lord and acknowledge the cheers from the dressing-room and the spectators."