Interview with E A S Prasanna, India’s legendary off-spinner

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Talks about his school days and the importance of sports in education

What are your views on the importance of sports in schools?
Not only in schools, I’m a staunch believer that extra-curricular activities are very important for us in our Indian culture. These activities should include teachers too, as it brings out a different perspective on the overall development. In my belief, people who are not exposed to extra-curricular activities, their approach and attitude towards life is very narrow. Education gives you knowledge but sports teaches you healthy competition. It’s not about winning all the time but participation is a very important factor. Sports should be a mandatory subject in schools.

Coming to your school and college days, who was your inspiration?
There was no hero as far as I’m concerned but by God’s grace and along with my parents support I perceived sports as my carrier. Sports was always my first priority and education was second but I strongly feel that you have to acquire both simultaneously to grow well in life.
What was the motivational factor? How did you happen to perceive Cricket as profession? Why not any other sport?
It’s natural gift for me. I used to play many games, like hockey, football and most of all the ball games. Cricket had more impact compared to other sports on me. I got induced into the game. It is the game which chose me and not that I chose the game.

Where did you study? Who were your favourite teachers in your school and college days?
I studied in National High School, National College and National Institute of Engineering, Basavanagudi, Bangalore. Two teachers were instrumental in shaping up my personality as a cricketer. One Mr. SNN (S. Narasimha Murthy) and the other Mr. BDK (B.Dakshina Murthy) who was also a cricketer. Outside the classroom they never behaved like teachers and they played along with us. I consider that as an inspiration. That’s an impact I always had. I still value that. I don’t impose myself as something great because of the fact of the sporty approach which my sports teachers taught me on the field. One should not give importance to one’s talent but should give importance to his/her passion. The teachers play a very important role. They should not pressurize the kids instead encourage the students to do better. The students should not be scared of the teachers. When one’s mind is free and with passion at the top, one can exhibit his/her talent to the best of his/her abilities.

What advice would you give the younger generation who wants to pursue cricket as their career?
We loved the game and we had the passion. In our generation we never bothered about the status which comes with money. There were rich people but Education was such an important aspect that the educated mind did not even bother to give importance to the status one enjoys because of money. The people were respected considering his humane, kind and considerate nature. Now I feel money is playing an important role in players lives. It shouldn’t be the tempting factor to play the game.
My sincere advice to them is, to have passion towards the game not for the money but for the sport. In our days whether we were rich or poor we continued to play. If you don’t value the sport I don’t think you can conduct and carry yourself well in the society.

How should we bring out rural talent into limelight when they can’t afford to play?
Luckily there are many options these days. They are getting chances to come into lime light. For example, IPL is providing a platform for urban and rural kids. We see in tennis – ITPL, in Football- IFL etc. The platforms have been provided already. I’m quite sure that in 20 years both rural and urban will have an equal ratio. Infact, I feel urban children will give away for the rural kids as they have many other options than the rural kids.

What should be the government’s role in sports?
The government’s role is very important. There is a positive approach. Certain awards have been introduced by the government to encourage sports. I personally feel government should involve more sports personalities to understand the importance of sports. Unfortunately in our country it’s lagging.

What is the advice to physical education teachers at school and college level?
The physical education teachers should not curb the enthusiasm of a player. The fundamental point is to assess the talent of the individual, support the talent and top it up with their expertise to increase the talent and take it to the next level.

Lastly, we would like to know about your general perception about education today in India?
Overall it’s very good but because of the semester system it allows the students to play less. When they have semester exams they miss out important tournaments which affects their career. We should have special schools for sports and the players should be provided with revenue where they can perceive sport 24/7. As of now, I feel there is an imbalance between our education and sports.