Grooming process needed

A FILE PICTURE OF PRAVIN AMRE. The former Indian batsman has recently been appointed as the coach of the Mumbai team.-V.V. KRISHNAN

Having watched Sachin Tendulkar for the past 16 years, Mumbai ought to have produced some quality batsmen. It hasn't, and that is a fact.

For a couple of months after Karsan Ghavri quit the job of coach of the Mumbai Ranji team, Mumbaikars were busy speculating about his successor. With his team having won the Ranji Trophy 36 times, a Mumbaikar is not prepared to accept the tag of `finalist' or `semi-finalist'. The best coach gets you the best results is what Mumbaikars believe and that certainly put the Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC) under pressure.

The CIC had appointed Pravin Amre, a Level III coach, as a batting coach for the Ranji team to assist Ghavri. But the fact that the CIC didn't elevate Amre to the position of the coach of the team immediately after Ghavri resigned added to the speculation. And when Sandhu and Jayantilal made themselves available, the CIC had to discuss the merits of the candidates.

As things were getting sorted out, Ashok Mankad applied for the post a few days before the CIC was to meet. Eventually, it was Pravin Amre who was chosen by the CIC. Whatever may be the reason for choosing Amre to coach the Mumbai team, the question is whether any of the four candidates would have made any difference to the future of Mumbai cricket.

Even with around 30,000 registered cricketers playing in 90 tournaments, Mumbai has no replacement for either Ramesh Powar or Wasim Jaffer who are likely to be in the Indian team for the tour of South Africa. The tour clashes with the Ranji matches. And if the experienced Nilesh Kulkarni is unavailable for any of the games, his replacement is 17-year-old all-rounder Iqbal Abdulla who has played seven matches for the Mumbai Under-17 team last season.

In the 80s when Mumbai couldn't find a left-arm spinner, the selectors had to request 48-year-old Padmakar Shivalkar to play, but that didn't make a difference. It was when the BCA-Mafatlal scheme for bowlers was launched in 1990 that the bowlers emerged and were trained by Frank Tyson for three years. These bowlers have taken more than 5000 first class wickets.

Mumbai cricket is peculiar in the sense that a player, on an average, is involved in 50 matches every season; so faults do creep into the technique inadvertently and he, without realising the repercussions, continues to play.

As long as a player gets runs or wickets, he is not worried about the faults but the moment he is out of form, he can't go back to the basics because he never had his basics right.

Mumbaikars do take a lot of pride in their batsmen scoring the maximum number of runs for the country but they seem to forget that the majority of those runs have been scored by three Mumbai batsmen — Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar. What about bowlers? Apart from Ramakant Desai and Subhash Gupte, no Mumbai bowler of merit has played for the country. Shivalkar was unlucky not to have been picked for the country. It is argued that since the idols were all batsmen, Mumbai produced more quality batsmen than bowlers. If we accept this argument, then, having watched Tendulkar for the past 16 years, Mumbai ought to have produced some quality batsmen. It hasn't, and that is a fact.

For talent to emerge, there has to be a grooming process. If a smaller cricketing State such as Kerala can think of such a process, there is no reason why the MCA can't think of it, especially when the MCA's 90 tournaments are not producing quality players.

For the extremely committed and techno savvy Pravin Amre to get Mumbai to effectively combine and make an impact in the national championship is a big challenge. Systematic that he is, he will have to ensure that the process of grooming the talent starts quickly.

Mumbai must stop resting on its laurels. In the 75 years of the Ranji Trophy, Mumbai has won 190 out of 376 matches (50.53%) and lost only 14. While Mumbai has won the Ranji Trophy 36 times, the next best are Delhi and Karnataka, six times each.

And in the Irani Trophy, out of 42 matches played, Mumbai has won on 15 occasions whereas the Rest of India has won 18 times. Karnataka has won on four occasions. Mumbai has a track record that would suffice to inspire any team. All that we need is for it to inspire Mumbai.