In India only cricketers are superstars: Adam Gilchrist
Appointed as Australia’s first education ambassador to India a few months back, he takes his role seriously and is supporting his government’s efforts.
Appointed as Australia’s first education ambassador to India a few months back, he takes his role seriously and is supporting his government’s efforts in promoting educational ties with India. Gilly, as he is called, visits India often and was in Delhi recently as part of Australia’s skills-training initiative in collaboration with the Indian government. He spoke to ET Magazine on a range of topics —from the Indian cricket team to his favourite hotspots in the country. Excerpts:
On whether his popularity as a cricketer will help in building stronger educational ties
Earlier, as ambassador of the University of Wollongong (in New South Wales, Australia), I had helped forge relation- ships with India; now I have this role with the Australian government as the education ambassador to this country.
Coming from a family of educators, I place great importance on education. Even during my cricketing days, when I travelled the world and saw different land- scapes and cultures, a common thread that ran across was the power of knowledge.
Education and under- standing are vital to succeed in anything. I was happy to respond when I was asked by the Australian ministry of education to support them in their endeavours to forge stronger links with India.
I understand the reasoning that someone might want to have a cricketer involved in India because it attracts attention. But that will only open the door. If nothing of quality or substance is on offer then after the first 10 minutes of photo-op, it would be just a waste of time.
On his role as ambassador of Australian education
The Indian Premier League experience was a training course for me in cricket and in life. I understood new cultures, gained new understanding and shared knowledge.
I have great faith in the quality of education that Australia can offer to support India, and especially to achieve prime minister Narendra Modi’s goal of filling the existing gap in the demand and supply of skilled workers. It’s a big chal- lenge for India, and Australia has a lot of programmes to offer that are tailored to India’s requirements.
On his plans for sports-related study and training
We’ve been discussing the sports industry a lot here. In India, only cricketers are superstars and held in high regard. But it is a huge industry with many opportunities and it needs people with varied skillsets—in sports administration and sports management, broadcasting and event management.
During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia showcased to the world how to run a mega sports event. There’s a real opportunity in India as the country hosts more and more events from cricket to various leagues across tennis, football and badminton, among others.
Australia has skill providers in that sector and we are keen to help India chase the FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) target of 2.1 million skilled people in the sports sector over the next five years.
On the Indian cricket team, especially batting
A lot of people feel that Virat Kohli is carrying the team, which is true, but it is a catch-22 situation: are they worse off because he is carrying them or is he not allowing other bats- men to bat because is he so good like, he is so good that I’d hate batting behind him because I’d not get an opportunity to bat.
He is just so good at the moment that you cannot question what he is doing—batting and scoring regular 80s and 90s in T20 and getting the team to 190s. But India needs time to fill the big and gaping holes of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
It took Australia a lot of time to get back after many good play- ers had left; it’s not easy and can take two- three years to get that consistent model and foundation back. India has been through an element of that but MS Dhoni has been inspirational and done a great job in keeping the landscape quite stable in the transition period. Virat will continue to learn under his leadership—he’ll learn to harness his eagerness and it’ll be a very exciting journey.
On some of his favourite things in India Indian food, tick
Also, the way I’ve been embraced and hosted here as a cricketer by the people is wonderful. And the diversity of the country— from the waterways in Kerala to Mumbai, which is truly a global city, to the beauty of the North. In my last few years of the IPL, I loved finding another little corner of India. Dharamshala in the foothills of the Hima- layas is such a beautiful and spiritual place. The diversity across the nation is appealing.
On his visits to India
I am here three to six times a year, in a variety of roles. I still heavily follow cricket and there are a number of touch- points I’m involved in. I’m also involved in a business back in Perth—a forestry company that grows Indian sandalwood and exports to a number of end markets; that’s another link with India.
On his current role in cricket
I have no official role with Cricket Australia, even though I’d have liked to, but the timing has not been quite right for me and my young family. I am a commentator in the Big Bash League (the Australian Twenty20 tournament), which is great fun, and I coach my sons and play a lot of backyard cricket.
On his interactions with young Indians as Australia’s education ambassador
Indians are drawn to a wide variety of courses that Australia offers—com- merce is a big one, so are management and engineering. In general it’s about them wanting an Australian education to complement the educational journey they are on in the home country.
The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between the two countries will ease some concerns such as recognition of educational qualifications in Australia and India, and will benefit students from both countries. Australia is also seen by Indian students as a safe and secure campus destination, with some of the concerns that had cropped up around seven years back, having been eased completely.