The school will be a boon to young cricketers from every region, writes Makarand Waingankar
At a time when there were hardly any cricket coaching institutions in the country, the erstwhile Maharaja of Porbandar with his great vision, established The Duleep School of Cricket in Porbandar on June 7, 1947. During my recent visit to the school, I observed that the innovations of the Maharaja in preparing various types of cement pitches and effective cricket training devices were still intact but had not been utilised to its fullest potential.
The Maharaja, who was the captain of the Indian team that toured England in 1932, had observed that the Indians needed proper practice facilities for fast bowling and playing fast bowling, for the players to excel in international cricket.
Some of the top Indian cricketers visited and benefited from the Duleep School and, going by the documents available, they were all grateful to the Maharaja for making some lovely cement pitches.
Out of five cement pitches, the first three pitches are good for batting practice but vary in pace — first being the fastest, second is little slower owing to a layer of thick sail-cloth placed under the matting, and the third is the slowest, because of a thicker layer.
The fourth is a good batting pitch and the last one is for slip catches — three slip fielders can be comfortably placed in the net for a fast bowler.
Then, there is a section for players to work on techniques by having mirror practice. Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare would stand in front of the mirror for hours to perfect certain shots.
The most innovative part of the school is the six compartments, each 65 feet long and 11 feet wide. The ball has to hit the opposite side of the compartment without touching the either side. There are also channels alongside the pitch which carry the ball to the bowlers end and a mechanical wheel lifts it for a bowler to be ready to bowl the next ball. Certainly, a time-saver.
The sad part is that neither the BCCI nor the Saurashtra Cricket Association has been using the facility and even the National Cricket Academy, which is more concerned about conducting the various levels of the coaching courses, has nothing innovative to offer.
The NCA is totally defunct from September to April and one would expect it to copy the innovations of the Duleep School of Cricket in various zones so that players get to practise basic technique. Though we need qualified coaches, we need to have innovative coaching schools too. The fact is that the NCA has bowling machine only for batsmen to practise against and dead pitches for the bowlers.
If the BCCI can have a tournament named after Duleepsinhji for close to 50 years, surely it can also revive the school which was launched two months before India became independent. It will be a boon to young cricketers from every region. It seems we had more foresight before independence than after it.