In it for the long game

For the cricketers born in the late 1980s, life has been kind but not really fair. Sleeping in a crib around the time Sachin Tendulkar was making his Test debut meant they outgrew the Little League at the opportune time when the old were making way for the young in the senior team. Sitting on a heavy IPL-enhanced bank balance while still in their teens ensured that anxiety didn't cloud their minds or make them reset their goals during the uncertain days of the adolescence to adulthood shift. But while wading in the fortuitous flow, they had to deal with the curse of the blessed.

Cricket's romance with its amateur era and middle-class heroes is well known. They were men who played like millionaires on the field but struggled to make ends meet at home. It was fame, and not fortune, that the sport promised those who pursued it diligently. The hard days of the early struggle made cricketers of the past larger than life figures. Their tales of hardship only magnified their skills and feats.

But 2008 changed the script, and with it the backdrop of a cricketer's story. Fancy cars and plush homes made an early appearance. Within days of winning the under-19 World Cup, Virat Kohli and his band of boys signed a million-dollar contract to play the first IPL.

Cricket fans were used to prodigies but not the kind who had agents, image-consultants and wealth managers. The new-rich IPL generation smashed the stereotype. They looked, spoke and acted differently and seemed to be enjoying the game's shortest format, which needed limited skills. It has often been said that the IPL kids couldn't handle the newfound opulence, but neither could the cricketing fraternity come to grips with the fact that a cricketer's profile had changed for good.

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