Sachin Tendulkar is a genius. Need we discuss it? His 40th birthday just past, memoirs of people who saw him ‘gatecrash’ into the Indian team at 16 were heartening to read. What remains crucial is that he isn’t another product of the organised coaching system.
He wasn’t born out of obsessive video analysis by certified coaches. The prankster that he was, he in fact would have made the entire video go missing. His coach Ramakant Achrekar believed in making players out of match practice: ‘Read the situation and learn to deal with it’.
When despite scoring over 2000 runs in a season in 1987, he didn’t get the Junior Cricketer award of the Mumbai Cricket Association, Sunil Gavaskar in a hand written letter to him wrote: “Don’t be disappointed at not getting the Best Junior Cricketer award from MCA. If you look at the past award winners, you will find one name missing and that person has not done badly in Test cricket!” He was talking about himself.
Those who could only make sense of hawk-eyes and drab technology, coaches and former India players alike, boastfully predicted that with his peculiar bottom hand grip, he will be out of the game in a couple of years.
It has been 24 years of the same grip, and Tendulkar plays on. He wasn’t allowed to be the slave of technique by his coach. Had he followed unsolicited technicalities howsoever genuine it seemed, we wouldn’t have witnessed the genius massacre great bowlers time and again.
Having dealt with hundreds of situations in the middle before he played first-class cricket, adaptability was his strength. Not only was he smart from childhood itself in toying with bowlers, he “had that uncanny knack of taking his partner along and attack with venom”, according to Sairaj Bahutule. Bahutule was one of the bowlers bowling to Tendulkar and Kambli in that ever famous partnership of 664 in an inter-school tournament.
A few days back the BCCI had a meeting about revamping the National Cricket Academy which has become a rehabilitation centre of contracted players. There were certain decisions taken by the NCA committee, but the fact that mustn’t be overlooked is that most of the national players haven’t come through the NCA.
The list includes Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and so on. They are self-made cricketers who are lucky that the non-qualified experienced coaches didn’t tinker with their natural approach.
The committee took a decision that the fast bowlers will be trained at the MRF Pace Foundation under Glenn McGrath. This arrangement will certainly help young bowlers. During the time Dennis Lillee and T.A. Sekhar were at the MRF, the Board seemed content with Indian coaches.
The BCCI must review the activities of the three centres at Mumbai, Chennai and Mohali. Theses centres train nine associations each.
The technical inputs of state academies, state teams and coaches at these centres are affecting the skill level of players because coaches have agreed to disagree on vital issues. The players resent it as it’s affecting their skill level.
The ideal way would be for the BCCI to insist that all the state academies have the syllabus of NCA so that a uniform coaching language is spoken. The NCA coaches should act as observers.
Why have three separate centres not controlled by NCA when during the season these centres are not functioning? Instead, there could be five zonal academies which were in operation only during summer till 2005.
With so many standards and so many academies, all we can have is a chaotic mess. Perhaps Tendulkar’s story can give BCCI a hint; techniques and technicalities can create many cricketers but not one Tendulkar. The BCCI has to have a re-think vis-a-vis the coaching structure.