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Focus on grooming of players

Makarand Waingankar
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Indian cricket has funds to find and groom talent. But the lack of an effective process to bring out the best in players and venues has resulted in frequently misleading big scores that get exposed when the players perform in less favourable conditions.

Recently, Mumbai selectors picked 42-year-old Pravin Tambe for the Ranji Trophy.  He is amazingly fit and took 26 wickets against four good local teams, and that forced the State selectors to pick him. But the statement made by the chairman of the selection committee has shaken the average Mumbai cricket supporter. He said: “There are no young bowlers in Mumbai who are good enough to play first class cricket. Everyone wants to bat and pitches are also placid.” It is a fact.

In a new restructuring tournament schedule, 3100 matches are played on 98 grounds with 49 matches on each weekend. And Mumbai has no bowler! Do a large number of matches produce bowlers? That is the question which needs to be answered.

It’s a fact that Mumbai has always been known for producing high quality batsmen from Vijay Merchant to Sachin Tendulkar, and India’s approximately one third runs have been scored by them. But there has never been a situation as bad as it is now. This despite having a very good academy set up. There are also fitness issues.

Fitness issue

Of late, the frequency of fast bowlers breaking down in the country is quite alarming. The worst aspect is when the bowler in form breaks down and the team combination gets affected, the team also suffers. To a certain extent, the nature of pitches is to be blamed, but when Tamil Nadu couldn’t defend a huge score against Saurashtra which was chasing the score, the quality of Tamil Nadu attack was exposed.

Presuming there are three medium pacers playing for each Ranji team, there are 81 medium pacers taking part in the Ranji Trophy and one hardly comes across noteworthy performance of medium pacers, barring a few.

To produce bowlers, there has to be a dedicated system of grooming the medium pacers.  The modern training methods are so scientific that the medium pacers must be guided properly on how to implement those. In most of the States, the trainers and coaches are not qualified.

The BCCI has decided to have zonal academies. While that decision should be commended, the selection of coaches and trainers must purely be on merit and experience.

Preparation of pitches

Another aspect is the process of preparation of pitches.  There are over 800 matches of BCCI played every season at more than 100 venues. The BCCI had quite rightly increased the number of curators from five to 12 and introduced a course for curators. Why is the number of curators now back to five?

Surely the BCCI can afford to have even two dozen curators. The problem now is no zonal curator is able to monitor the progress of venues in his zone. With the result in the four rounds played so far in less than a month, more than 30,000 runs have been scored.

Based on these runs, batsmen come in the reckoning for national selection and usually return from tour with an average in single digit! This proves beyond doubt that first class cricket in India is of poor quality. Unless the BCCI appoints 25 curators, the quality of pitches will not improve and the performances will be meaningless. 

The selection of coaches and trainers must purely be on merit and experience, writes Makarand Waingankar

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