Paternity Leaves: Cricketers Break Parental Stereotypes with Paternity Leaves

The news of Virat Kohli’s paternity leaves has given rise to mixed opinions from people all over the world. Many have applauded him for being responsible and believing in equal gender parenting roles. However, some cricket fans have lashed out asking Virat Kohli to take lessons from other former cricketers. In 2015, MS Dhoni was on an Australia tour when he received the news of his daughter’s birth from a fellow player. 
During the interview, he spoke that his duties to the nation are more important than his personal life. Quoting this example, Virat paternity leaves has been subjected to immense trolling on social media platforms.

The Indian cricket witnessed the frustration Sunil Gavaskar faced when he could not leave the West Indies tour midway and visit his newly born son. With the growing realization to equally share parental responsibilities, it is high time that we have national policies that assure long duration paternity leaves. The Indian national Policy allows paid maternity paternity leaves for 26 weeks. Before delivery, a woman can avail of paid maternity leave for eight weeks. On the other hand, only central Government employees have 15 days paternity leave according to our National Policy.

Disappointed Players stuck on fields while their children were born.

  • Chris Harris – Chris Harris was playing in England when his wife went into labour. Chris had handed his phone to the umpire to inform him about any news. One of the twins was born with hemiplegia. Later, Chris spoke that all he could think on the field that day was how he could get back home and see his children. 
  • Alec Stewart – In 1993, Alec Stewart received a call from his mum after they had just lost a match against Australia. His mum told him that his wife was in labour for the last four hours. Putting aside all his frustration, Stewart left the field. He arrived 5 minutes after his son was born. In two days, Stewert was back on the field. Recently Stewart commented about Joe Root’s paternity leaves and wished he had a similar privilege in his days.
  • Sunil Gavaskar – Sunil Gavaskar was playing in New Zealand when he heard about the birth of his son in 1976. All he wished to do was come home and meet his son. He did not want to visit the West Indies for an upcoming series after two weeks. The BCCI did not grant him the leave. Gavaskar was frustrated with the idea of seeing his son only after two and a half months. The plight of this situation was witnessed by the whole country when West Indies players were hurling bouncers and beamers at Indian players. Anshuman Gaekwad remembers Gavaskar breaking down on the field while saying that he did not want to die in the match. All he wanted to do was meet his son.
  • Allan Border – Allan Border was playing against India when the news about his daughter’s birth flashed on the screen. Border saw his first child two weeks after her birth.
  • Shane Warne – During the 1997 Ashes tour, Shane Warne heard about his daughter’s birth. As Australia was down by 1-0 in the series, Warne could not leave midway. Warne grabbed nine wickets in that series and flew home after a fortnight of his firstborn’s birth. He returned to the ground a week later for the fourth Test in Headingley.

Changing times in Final Test

Indian star opening batsman Rohit Sharma opted to miss his fourth and final Test against Australia in 2018. He returned to his home to be with his new-born daughter Samaira. The current BCCI chief, Saurav Ganguly could not see his daughter Sana for almost a month after her birth. Having experienced this frustration, Saurav Ganguly made sure that Virat Kohli was granted paternity leaves. 

In 2019, Cricket Australia released a 12 months maternity leave for its women cricket team. Moreover, the players were guaranteed a one-year contract extension after their return. This was to ensure that women return to playing even after becoming mothers. With changing times, we need to have gender-neutral policies like these in place for all international and national level players. Earlier this year, Joe Root missed the first test series against West Indies to be present for the birth of his second child. 

Balanced parenting that includes both mother and father will lead to better mental well being for the entire family. Relationships in which the fathers share parental responsibilities are more compassionate and understanding. They will be more aware of each other’s emotional health and contribute to building healthy families. 

As for the players, a healthy family will ensure a better emotional state. This will definitely contribute to better performance during matches eventually leading to more proud moments for the country. Unlike the earlier times, players have started prioritizing their personal lives over their professional game. It is time, we respect their decision and stop mocking them for the choices they make.

Is the lack of National Policies for Paternity Leaves the only reason for this  mindset?

In India, parents have an alternate support system in the form of their parents or domestic help. However, as the concept of the nuclear family is emerging more strongly, the need for paternal assistance and equal responsibility-sharing is crucial. Today, most new parents do not stay with other family members or their parents who can help look after newborns. Women who start working after a six months maternity leave, face major career setbacks. In the same way, most men fear that they will lose out on many opportunities if they take prolonged breaks. 

Even in these changing times, there are many prevalent cases where men carry the opinion that bathing a child, changing diapers, feeding children are all a woman’s duties. This mindset needs to be eradicated for erasing the gender gap at workplaces and homes. Also, some people are completely unaware and uninformed about paternity leaves. Keeping men away from their families during such crucial times does not reflect the right principles and morals. Especially in this new era of overcoming stereotypes, corporate policies and national policies should be enhanced to support parental duties.

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