Secret of success

THE UTTAR PRADESH TEAM, which won the Ranji Trophy this season.-R. V. MOORTHY

By winning the coveted Ranji Trophy, beating Bengal, followed by a win over Sialkot in the Mohamad Nissar Trophy, U.P. has proved that the only way to victory is to keep playing cricket hard.

A few years back, I was invited by the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association to set up a programme for cricket development in the State. What I did not realise then was that not only was preparing a programme for the 70-odd districts a big challenge, but the interference of anti-social elements, politicians and bureaucrats had deprived many talented players of a chance to play for the State in all the categories.

The media, at a press conference, narrated instances of nepotism, which not many had the courage to report for obvious reasons. There was no proper tournament structure and the boys were largely dependent on the cricket hostel in Kanpur, which has produced former Test player Gopal Sharma and many other U.P. Ranji players.

The interference of other elements was not as much when these players were playing for U.P. But the increase in match fees and the prospect of making a career in cricket encouraged destructive elements to put pressure on the selectors.

The lack of tournaments, paucity of decent grounds, terrible facilities and a large number of non-qualified coaches were the factors holding cricket in U.P. back, but the cricketers were determined to succeed. Even in the scorching summer, one saw boys practising for hours and when some of them would get picked for the National Cricket Academy, they would put in more hours than required of them.

These cricketers have a simple philosophy. They all believe in working on their strengths. They feel that when you work on your strengths, you get rid of your weaknesses. The boys do talk about the non-cricketing pressure, but they are quite used to those circumstances. Once you do well for the State and the country, the politicians desist from harming your career. The coach of the India Under-19 team, Lalchand Rajput, has an interesting observation about the boys from U.P. He says, "I observed on the tour of England and Pakistan that the boys from U.P are hungry for success. To them, all that matters is success. I played against U.P. but since there were no role models, the players, though talented, were not performing consistently. Now they have Kaif, Raina, R. P. Singh and Piyush Chawla as role models. Look at the progress young Tanmay Srivastav has made. He believes in scoring hundreds."

As a 13-year-old, when the left-handed opening batsman Tanmay Srivastav was chosen for the CCI's summer vacation camp in 2001, Nari Contractor had predicted that if the boy continued to play the way he was doing, he would become an ideal opener for India. Though his mates in the camp would get tired after a four-hour practice in the heat of Mumbai in May, one could watch Srivastav with another U.P. mate practising in the afternoon.

Former India leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani belonged to Gorakhpur on the border of U.P. and Nepal. When he was not selected for U.P. in junior cricket, he went over to M.P. and eventually played for the country. Hirwani would always say that if you have determination, technique will follow. All that you need to do is to be observant and keep thinking about the game.

Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is a hard worker and has a good googly but does not turn leg-breaks much. Experts say since he is young he has time to master the art of leg-spin. At the moment, Chawla is too obsessed with bowling googlies and in the Challenger Trophy in Chennai the batsmen got after his googly.

The young dashing all-rounder Pravin Kumar has a peculiar theory. He seems to think that every ball is a no-ball. The coach of U.P., Rajinder Singh Hans, who is a qualified coach, says that no one should curb the natural instincts of a player. He keeps guiding them on the need to score runs and what should be done to get wickets.

By winning the coveted Ranji Trophy, beating Bengal, followed by a win over Sialkot in the Mohamad Nissar Trophy, U.P. has proved that the only way to victory is to keep playing cricket hard. There is no substitute for hard work. All that these cricketers need is proper exposure.