Vikram Rathour to oversee HP cricket development programme

The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association has drafted the former India and Punjab opener as Director of Cricket and head coach with a free hand to decide on the policy of promoting the game in the hilly State.

Vikram Rathour was India’s national selector for four years.   -  Vivek Bendre

Vikram Rathour is set to give a facelift to cricket in Himachal Pradesh. The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) has drafted the former India and Punjab opener as Director of Cricket and head coach with a free hand to decide on the policy of promoting the game in the hilly State.

Rathour, with a vast experience of 146 first-class matches, had completed a four-year stint as national selector and was keen to stay in touch with the game. With Punjab not showing any interest, Rathour made the right move to associate with an ambitious programme drawn by the HPCA.

Following Rathour’s suggestions, the HPCA will identify 70 small centres all over the state. “The idea is to have these centres with a minimum of 25 players each. The HPCA will provide the basic equipment, prepare pitches, and appoint a professional coach at every centre,” Rathour, 48, told Sportstar.

Extensive coaching

The centres will be set up in schools and colleges willing to provide their grounds. “We are going to sign MoUs with these schools and colleges. The idea is to pick at least two players from each centre and give them extensive coaching at the four major centres we have (Dharamsala, Amtar, Bilaspur and Una),” Rathour added.

The stadium at Dharamsala is being developed as Centre of Cricket Excellence. “We are going to upgrade the indoor training facilities. We want to explore possibilities of creating residential support for the campers. We already have a women’s academy with residential facilities. The Centre of Excellence is going to have permanent employees to give it a professional look. It will be the platform to go to for all the cricketers in the State,” informed Rathour, who had been Punjab’s coach in 2010-11 and assistant coach of Kings XI Punjab.

Expanding pool of local players

As head coach of the HPCA, Rathour has decided to focus on grooming home-grown talent than engage professionals. “Hiring players from outside has not helped the team to qualify for a long time. We want to encourage home cricketers. At present, we may have a pool of 450 youngsters playing competitive cricket in HP which is nothing compared to some of metros where private academies command a membership of more than 500. Unless we create a large pool how can HP compete with big teams?” Rathour emphasised.

A Level III coach, Rathour aims to prepare the HP players by providing them match experience. “We can have a league among the centres that we are setting up. There are hardly any clubs in HP. With increased cricket activity, I am sure HP will emerge a far more competitive team in the coming years,” concluded Rathour.