Any comparison is premature

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, greets the young cricketers after their phenomenal achievement.-K. RAMESH BABU

It is imperative that the Board of Control for Cricket in India does everything possible so that talents like the boys from St. Peters High School can be harnessed efficiently, writes Vijay Parthasarathy.

The unbroken, world record 721-run first wicket stand between two Hyderabadi school cricketers, Mohammed Shaibaaz and Bodepalli Manoj Kumar, was ironically set a couple of weeks after Chairman of the National Selection Committee Dilip Vengsarkar did some plain-speaking regarding the dearth of good back-up openers.

Shaibaaz and Kumar have generated particular interest since they broke the 664-run record set nearly two decades ago by modern batting great Sachin Tendulkar and his childhood friend Vinod Kambli. While the boys' achievement gives hope for the future, any praise must be tempered by the knowledge that they were facing an immature bowling attack, a fledgling fielding side. The bigger achievement lies in their focus and the fact that they made, in spectacular fashion, the best of a good start.

Vengsarkar's observations were made in the context of a need for hard pitches in the domestic game. The former batting great rightly asserts that the quality of a player can only be assessed on wickets that have bounce. In India, few matches at grade cricket level are conducted on turf wickets; even these are, in general, unpredictable and of otherwise poor quality.

Batsmen gain a preference to play on the front foot since the ball has a tendency to keep low. Many capable players, having established their prolificacy on slow docile wickets, subsequently struggle to adjust on fast tracks outside the subcontinent, and eventually fade out.

Contrast this against the situation in Australia where precocious entrants like Michael Clarke - and Ricky Ponting, before him - made a seamless transition to international cricket, having honed their craft in school on bouncy tracks laden with juice.

It is imperative that the Board of Control for Cricket in India does everything possible so that talents like the boys from St. Peters High School can be harnessed efficiently. There is indisputable merit in Vengsarkar's call for more sporting tracks at the domestic and age group level. With their introduction both batsmen and bowlers would benefit.

As familiarity with hitherto alien conditions increases, India's away record is bound to improve eventually. Meanwhile, bigger things will be expected of the young triple-scoring duo. Any comparison drawn at this stage against Sachin Tendulkar and Kambli is, however, premature and unfair. As Kambli, a child prodigy-turned-Test cricketer himself, phrased it, this should be treated "as the first step in the long, grinding journey of what should be a successful career."