India’s dominance in world cricket is only growing. From being a financial superpower, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is now showing off its supremacy on the cricket field as well.
India U-23’s triumph at the Asian Cricket Council’s Emerging Teams Cup Tournament in Singapore on Sunday has added one more feather to the overcrowded cap of Indian cricket (see box). These performances certainly come as a breath of fresh air at a time when there is turmoil in Indian cricket due to the spot-fixing scandal and allegations of conflict of interest.
It is not that India began to dominate overnight. They had to go through a process. Greg Chappell, who had a torrid time as India’s coach, reportedly said that India has some of the best talent, which has been nurtured well by the country’s board.
He wrote in a column for an Indian sports magazine that a young cricketer in India has access to better equipment than ever before and BCCI is investing in youth more than it ever did.
Chappell wrote that because of the increased number of tournaments, those who get to the national U-19 level have experienced the life of a professional cricketer from the age of 14. And these battle-hardened youngsters are ready for the rigours by the time they play in a youth World Cup.
So what is it that is going right for Indian cricket?
“It is well-known that we have the best junior cricket format among the Test playing nations. The format of the tournaments produce fresh talent and that help us grow,” said Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s general manager, game development.
“BCCI has made it compulsory in the last two years for every board to have a proper academy with trainers and physios. This helps in proper development of youngsters and that is reflected in their performance,” he added.
BCCI’s vice president Niranjan Shah seconded Shetty.
“Whatever money we get, we spend on infrastructure and players. From the beginning, we have programmes for juniors and we are spending a lot on them.
“Our age-group and school cricket is quite competitive and that’s why our boys mature so early by the age of 16 unlike England and Australia where they start late. We have a lot of competition at grassroots level. Every two years, we find a new crop of talent as there is an U-19 World Cup every two years,” said Shah.
Shetty revealed that they have special programmes for youngsters. “At the National Cricket Academy, we not only stress on cricket but there are education programmes on topics such as anti-doping, anti-corruption, financial management, personality development and history of the game.
Shah said he believes that playing in the IPL has also helped players gain confidence.
“We have restricted the number of foreign players in a playing XI to four so that local cricketers get to play. It gives them valuable exposure playing alongside the superstars of international cricket,” he said.
The recent spot-fixing controversy, too, has had a big impact on Indian cricket fans and the BCCI admits they were shocked. However, the board believes that this phase too will pass, just like the match-fixing controversy that rocked Indian cricket in 2000.
“There are some greats of Indian cricket still playing alongside whose pride to play for country are much more than a few people who have gone astray,” Shetty added.
So what’s BCCI’s aim for Indian cricket? “To be the No.1 team. That’s what we play for. In fact, every country plays to be No.1 in Tests or No.1 in ODIs,” said Shetty.