As Albert Camus put it: “You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.”
I have long believed that the best way to learn how to play cricket is to play a lot of it. As I watch the under-19 tri-series between India, Australia and New Zealand, currently underway in Darwin, I am even more convinced.
The gulf in experience between the Indian players and the Australian and New Zealand lads here seems as wide as the geographical distance between South Asia and Australasia. It will only get bigger unless we can replicate what India is doing.
Simply put, young cricketers in India play more cricket than their antipodean peers. At the youth level, India is years ahead of countries like Australia and New Zealand because they play so much more cricket. Also, young athletes in Australasia have multiple sports vying aggressively for their participation and involvement.
To compound the disparity, cricket has a monopoly on the best talent in India, and has hundreds of thousands of players to choose from.
What keeps Australia competitive is its proud cricketing history and a highly developed combative instinct.
At the youth level, the deficit in experience is swinging the pendulum further towards the sub-continent.
The young cricketer in India has access to better equipment than ever before and the BCCI is investing dramatically more resources at the youth level, than previously.
Better coaches, more support staff, increased competitions and pay for playing, all add up to a very attractive environment for young cricketers in India. Those who get through to the national u-19 team have almost experienced the life of a professional cricketer from the age of 14 or 15.
Those who survive the rigours are hardened young cricketers by the time they play in a youth World Cup.
Current Indian u-19 player, Sarfaraz Khan, for instance, has a score of 439, four scores of 300-plus and six scores of 200-plus to his name already, and is only 15 years of age! He trains and plays cricket nearly every day.
The Australian boys, by comparison, come out of school cricket having played a few hours a week, for a few months of the year.
Cricket clashes with the most important academic years of their young lives, and in some cases it may even be their second or third sport at school.
The chance to score 400 in a single game just does not exist because games here do not last long enough.
Resources for young Australian cricketers are adequate, without being exceptional. Much of the drive for their career development must come from the individual and a supportive family environment.
The State Associations in Australia do an excellent job of identifying the best young talent.
They are then exposed at national championships at u-17 and u-19 levels. From there, the best will go on to a four-day u-18 talent camp from which the u-19 national squad is selected.
It is from this point that the previous lack of playing time is compensated for, with training camps and the odd series — such as the one underway in Darwin — to prepare them for the Youth World Cup.
Whilst Australia is doing this very well, I expect that what India is doing, at this level, will leave its competitors in their wake.
However, the biggest challenge for Indian cricket is to get better at converting junior cricketers into international representatives at the senior level. Currently less than one in four makes the grade — which is far too few.
One of the reasons for not achieving a higher conversion rate must be indifference.
This indifference is not punished because there are so many Indian youngsters playing the game and with myriad competition, others, including those who mature later, come along and fill the gaps.
Australian cricket does not have any such luxury. Once they have identified a promising youngster they must be very efficient with their conversion rate to senior ranks.
Recent results suggest that Australia does this quite well with bowlers, but have not been as successful in transitioning young batsmen.
James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, all recent graduates from the youth programme, have made their mark on the international stage.
There are great challenges for all countries to keep producing talent, but the one lesson that we can all learn from India is that the best way to do it is to play as much competitive cricket as possible at the youth level.