Planning for the future

SREESANTH'S SUCCESS must have prompted the Kerala Cricket Association to spread the base and open as many as 28 coaching centres in all the 14 districts.-V. GANESAN

Though cricket gives you hope of making it a profession, ignoring education can be dangerous as there is no guarantee that every trained cricketer will make it to the top.

Kerala has never had a sterling track record of producing talented cricketers. The nation expected Kerala to produce footballers and athletes and that they did in large numbers.

Recently I went through a comprehensive project development document of the Kerala Cricket Association, VISION-2010, and was amazed to find that the KCA will be spending Rs. 1 crore per annum to unearth rural talent.

That there is more talent in rural India is evident from the fact that a majority of the players in the Indian cricket team are from districts. Despite the tussle going on between the Bihar and Jharkhand cricket associations, Mahendra Singh Dhoni emerged from a small place like Ranchi.

For Kerala, it was Tinu Yohanan and now it is Sreesanth making a mark in the Indian team. This must have prompted the KCA to spread the base and open as many as 28 coaching centres in all the 14 districts.

Each coaching centre will be equipped with a bowling machine and whatever is required to train the boys, will be provided. This is imperative because the rural boys, for lack of proper cricketing facilities, used to move to big cities and that affected their education.

Though cricket gives you hope of making it a profession, ignoring education can be dangerous as there is no guarantee that every trained cricketer will make it to the top. During the five years that I spent in Karnataka planning and implementing cricket programmes in the districts, I observed that the rural boys were more focussed than the boys in the metros.

They never made a fuss when there were no facilities, and when the KSCA did provide the facilities, they used it to the optimum. To them, weather conditions never mattered especially in Raichur, Bijapur and Gulburga. They never complained about water or heat.

The KCA document deals with the techno-administrative modules in such a way that if it is implemented meticulously, it is bound to produce results.

Karnataka medium pacer Vinay Kumar belongs to Davangere, an overnight journey from Bangalore. At 16, he was a strong lad and bowled sharp but the two TRDOs worked on him at that centre rather than get him to Bangalore. After three years when he was brought to Bangalore, he handled everything without getting pressurised. Today he is the main medium pacer of the State.

What needs to be done is to build the coaching department with Level I and II coaches because if the coaches do not speak the same coaching language, talent will suffer.

Vinay Kumar was handled by coaches who had done Level I and was fine-tuned by the TRDOs who had done Level III. The point is, each teenager is different in physique and skills and the coaches have to be qualified to monitor the progress of the boys.

The Davangere coaches were excited to see Vinay Kumar bowl quick on matting and were keen to play him in more matches but when they understood the importance of recovery period, they changed their minds.

These are the pitfalls faced when one thinks of unearthing rural talent in cricket because basically cricket is a mental game. The rural boys are mentally tough. It is the skill acquisition that is important for them. Fitness training is important, too. They tend to overdo fitness training possibly because their tough bodies can take that load, but in the long run, it does not benefit them.

For the KCA, with monsoon lasting for four months of the year, zonal indoor cricket schools are absolutely necessary and they are planning for it. In fact the BCCI should guide each association in having uniform indoor cricket schools at the zonal levels. If all the States have zonal indoor cricket schools, the boys will have less technical problems when they are selected for the NCA in Bangalore.

The Coaching Director of the NCA, Lalchand Rajput, says that the Academy will be conducting Level II courses at the zonal level. This will definitely help the associations in opening many centres. `I coach the way I played' is not accepted anymore by former cricketers. They are convinced that these courses are essential. Indian cricket seems to be going in the right direction.