When news broke out that Sreesanth had been arrested for spot- fixing by Delhi Police, cricket fans across the country were shocked.
Close on the heels came the revelation that distant relative Jiju Janardhan — almost always seen around Sreesanth — was the man who lured the paceman into the dirty business. But not many knew what Jiju’s credentials were that allowed him to be in Sreesanth’s vicinity.
Atul Srivastava, managing partner of Gaames Unlimited — which manages Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Partrhiv Patel among current India players — believes cricketers are often swayed into making careerdestroying moves by friends and self- styled relatives like Jiju.
Srivastava said that more often than not, the first and biggest mistake a cricketer makes is to let friends or close associates handle them rather than professional companies.
“Cricketers make a lot of money and coming from a humble background — in most cases — they don’t know how to invest it and manage their deals. That is when they are lured by friends who want to cash in on their fame and act as their agents,” Srivastava told Mail Today.
“What these friends don’t realise is that it’s not just about reaping the benefits of being associated with a cricketer. There are many hours of hardwork and lot of investment that goes into ensuring that a player can play freely without even bothering about the back end, the PR and the imagery.
“It isn’t as easy as it seems. One needs to have the expertise to manage the monetary side, the legal part as well as the marketing bit. What these agent- cumfriends do is look at the glamour and with time they too start acting like celebrities and that is when trouble starts brewing,” he said.
Srivastava says that often it is the agents who — unknowingly — lead the players into trouble.
“The friends- cum- agents are not always guilty of leading the players into trouble. At times, even they are unaware. How can you blame a guy who has gone abroad for the first time and is exposed to things he has never seen before? They get sucked in by the offers as they aren’t technically qualified.
“When you are a professional, you know where to draw the line. But if you get swayed by the negativity around you, you will only end up leading the cricketer in that direc- tion. Your base needs to be strong to differentiate between right and wrong. The trust a player has in the agent ensures that even the player doesn’t suspect anything,” he explained.
Asked to differentiate between a manager and an agent, Srivastava said: “The primary difference is that an agent won’t spend money on a player.
He will take the commission and move on. They look to just cash in. But as a sports management company, we need to stand by a player through thick and thin. There are a lot of ingredients in a contract. Some we deliver and some the player delivers.” Srivastava says he takes certain measures to ensure that his employees don’t get too close to a player.
“Having been in the industry for quite some time, I do get to understand when one of my employees starts getting too friendly with a cricketer. Being in the vicinity of a cricketer 24X7, they feel they are bigger than the company. And yet, their lack of knowledge ends up hurting the player.
“So when I see such a friendship growing, I cut the employee off from the player. I also make it clear to the players that they aren’t bigger than the company. There is a thin dividing line between protecting the player and ending up harming him,” he said.
When asked if that means curbing the growth of an employee, Srivastava clarifies: “Not at all, if I feel that someone is good, I am willing to give him a stake in the company. But I have to protect the player from miscreants. Sometimes harsh calls are needed.” But Srivastava believes that when BCCI provides accreditation to players’ managers, all the companies who are in the business will come forward and help remove corruption from cricket.