Grooming young talent

With Kapil Dev heading the NCA, one hopes some decisions will be taken to create more chances for teenagers.-V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

Though sending NCA coaches to cities is not a bad idea, the body must have five zonal academies where boys belonging to that particular zone can be coached.

An India under-19 player travelling 28 hours unreserved by train from Kanpur to Mumbai along with his three colleagues and taking the same route back in the afternoon on the same day.

Ten boys from Chandigarh flying to Hyderabad via Delhi to reach in time.

Boys from Indore travelling to Hyderabad for the selection trials which were being conducted for one cricket reality show in seven cities in India.

Cricket craze is the only way one can describe this madness that I witnessed in the past three weeks.

While I was travelling with former India players, Pranab Roy and Narendra Hirwani, non-stop for 20 days hunting for talent in the age group of 16 to 19, we saw a very talented bowler who had gone unnoticed though the head of the State selection committee belonged to the same district from where the boy had come for the trials.

At Kolkata, an under-19 India player who toured Pakistan this year was very impressive. The deaf-mute boy is an all-rounder of top quality but the people of Bengal are apparently so obsessed with the possibility of Sourav Ganguly's re-entry into the Indian team that hardly anyone knows about the boy.

The best talent was witnessed in Lucknow. Since there was a bandh, many boys had to walk long distances to reach the ground. The enthusiasm was such that one boy, after walking 20 kilometres, bowled for the entire session and he is a medium pacer!

The quality of spinners throughout was of the highest quality. Hirwani was guiding the spinners by bowling with them in the nets, but he observed that they had not been taught the basics. There were several genuine spinners and some of the leg-spinners were turning the ball even on cement surfaces.

One thing in common was that the boys had been practising hard but due to lack of match practice they struggled when they played good teams. A teenager in Bengal gets to play a maximum of 14 league matches in a season with no other significant matches, whereas someone from Mumbai plays close to 75 major games per season.

Abdulla Iqbal, a 17-year-old left-arm spinner and a good left-hand batsman, couldn't get even one game when he was in U.P. He came over to Mumbai when he was 15 and performed so well for the State that he is being talked about as a replacement for Nilesh Kulkarni and he is in the probables list for the Ranji Trophy.

The Director of the National Cricket Academy, Shivlal Yadav, said that the NCA would be sending coaches to private academies to hunt for talent because the boys from these academies ultimately get into the State sides. This was suggested by the Chairman of the NCA, Kapil Dev, who, having come from a small city, knows the problems encountered by those boys.

Though sending NCA coaches to cities is not a bad idea, the body must have five zonal academies where boys belonging to that particular zone can be coached. The NCA in Bangalore can coach only 40 boys in one age group. But if there are zonal academies, more than 200 boys could be trained throughout the year.

The NCA, Bangalore, runs for only five months but the zonal academies could run throughout the year and would be convenient for the State boys to get guidance in case there is a flaw in their technique. In the past five years, more than 500 coaches have qualified at various levels. But many of them are not coaching for lack of opportunities.

The situation is that there is enough talent to be groomed and there are enough coaches available to guide them but for that to happen, a system has to be developed in coordination with the State associations. With Kapil Dev heading the NCA, one hopes some decisions will be taken to create more opportunities for teenagers.