Sunday February 10, 2013
The long road to success
OUT OF THE BOUNDARY By ARUL SUPPIAH
IT’S never easy saying goodbye – more so for someone as young as 12 years old.
But that’s exactly what I did at that tender age. I still remember the day I stood at the Subang International Airport – in 1996 – waving frantically to my mother Baanumathi and family as I boarded the flight to England to pursue my dream as a cricketer.
I was chosen to study at the prestigious Millfield School in Somerset under a scholarship. To me, leaving home to fend for myself in a foreign land was the first big sacrifice that I had to do as a child to fulfil my dream.
My father Suppiah was with me for the first seven days at the picture-perfect Millfield School but all I remember is crying on his shoulders and wanting to go back home.
How time has flown – 17 years have passed since that day. But I can honestly say that I do not have a tinge of regret. I was a junior then – from the same SportExcel Junior batch as current world No. 1 woman squash player Nicol David.
Now, I am 29 years old and play for Somerset County in England as a professional.
I’ve represented England’s Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-19 teams and I am still pining for the opportunity to play for England’s national cricket team one day. All these would not have happened if I had not learn to stand on my own two feet.
It took me three years to find my footing. The transition from my “kampung” to a totally different culture was tough but it was all worth it. Two people come to my mind – my father and my idol the late Sir Donald Bradman – as I recall the times I felt like giving up.
My father taught me tough love. When I first went to England, I would call home at least three times a day – every day – for the first three months. There was hardly any normal conversation. It would be just me rattling away, begging my parents to take me home! My parents tried to comfort me ... promising me that things would only get better.
Then one day, I made my usual reverse call to my parents. But this time when the telephone operator asked if they would accept the charges, my dad said “No” and promptly hung up.
I was speechless!
Instead of sulking and feeling unwanted, reality hit me. Harsh as it may seem, it made me realise that I had to rough it out if I wanted to succeed. I’m not sure if parents of this generation can do what my dad did but I am glad they taught me about tough love.
Parents play an important role and can be very influential. They must not force but rather encourage and support. Yes, they should instil discipline when necessary but should never force their children to do something they don’t like. I’m glad that my parents allowed me to chase my dream and guide me in my journey outside my comfort zone.
The late Sir Donald taught me that many had plodded through the same journey. I will not forget the letter he wrote to me on Aug 2, 1996. (I still have it framed up in my bedroom.)
He had said: “I remember well when I first left home to try and further my cricket career. I was, of course, nervous and apprehensive but it had to be done if I were to become successful. You will be lonely at times and wonder if it’s all worth it, but it will be OK.”
If Sir Donald, the greatest cricketer to have ever lived, had gone through the same struggles and overcame them, I knew that I could do it too. I hope all you athletes out there – whether young or old – will never give up.
I know of many young athletes who lead a pampered life. Perhaps the culture in Malaysia does not allow one to adhere to a disciplined lifestyle. Athletes should be in bed early to give their body a good rest. It all takes a lot of willpower, strength and discipline.
One has to come out of his or her comfort zone and sacrifice the social hours. Only, we can determine our own destiny. Will I go through the journey all over again? Well, that’s a tough one.
It was hard work and I had to make lots of sacrifices. But if it’ll bring the same level of success that I’ve achieve, then “yes” I would go through it all over again.
I’m not saying everyone’s journey will be the same. Some succeed, some fail. But what is important is to try.
If there is one thing that I’ve learnt is that we must be patient in our quest for success. For, as they say, there is no short cut to success.
Arul Suppiah will continue to share with us the trials and tribulations he faced en route to becoming a successful cricketer with Somerset. This article will be published every fortnightly, beginning today.