While delivering the fourth MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture, former India skipper and batting legend Rahul Dravid has called upon the BCCI to formulate a blueprint for junior cricket in India, and said that, it was imperative to remove age fudging and illegal bowling action at the junior level, for the development of the game.
“When I hear a under-19 bowler reported for suspected bowling action, it upsets me deeply. What were the coaches doing until he reached that age. Did his faulty action begin at 10 years old. Did the next bunch of coaches just let it go because he was getting wickets and winning them matches,” Dravid said. “When at 19, an eager hard working boy who could have played the junior world cup, is reported for suspect action he is left correcting his action. These short term goals achieved through short cuts hurt the child because we as adults turn a blind eye.
“It is a similar emphasis on short term results that has led to the issue of overage players in junior matches. The entire exercise begins when a coach alters a player’s date of birth to allow him to play at a local event. The truth is a player who fakes his age, might make it to the junior level, not necessarily because he is better, but because physically he is stronger and bigger. It will have a ripple effect and an honest and talented player will be deprived of a place and we run the risk of losing him forever. Over-ageing is toxic and dangerous,” Dravid said
“The truth is that the player who has faked his age might make it at the junior level not necessarily because he is better or more talented, but because he is stronger and bigger. We all know how much of a difference a couple of years can make at that age. That incident will have another ripple effect: an honest player deprived of his place by an over age player, is disillusioned. We run the risk of losing him forever,” Dravid said.
Dravid also said that the BCCI needs to do more to attract youngsters to cricket. “We are not doing enough to attract youngsters and thus losing out on talent. Cricket is not the number one sport for youngsters anymore. A top sports equipment company told me that the sales of cricket equipment have gone down. I think we need to have a blueprint for junior cricket in India. We need to find a way to guide out coaches. There has to be well explained guidelines,” he said.
Dravid also suggested to have a rotational system in junior cricket. “We need to invest time and energy on junior cricket,” he said. He also talked about the trend of young cricketers giving up the sport too early and also how parents put pressure on the young cricketers.
The 42-year-old also stressed on the need to continue education so that they can become well-rounded adults.
The event was attended by members of both the Indian and South African cricket team, who will be playing the fourth cricket Test at Ferozshah Kotla stadium. Also present at the function was Pataudi’s wife Sharmila Tagore.
Dravid said not many kids have a support system like Sachin Tendulkar had during his formative years. ” Sachin was different. Talent-wise, he was a freak. Everything about his rise to the Indian team, the inevitability of his success was beyond the ordinary. It was phenomenal and to us who were his age, it was almost scary.
“What people tend to forget is that Sachin had a great support system. His family was supportive and caring, his elder brother was always there to guide him, his coach Ramakant Achrekar was more than a coach, a mentor – in life and on the pitch, teaching him how to hold the bat, driving him to games.
“Sachin was lucky that he had this vast umbrella of support and I dare say and he would agree, he wouldn’t have survived and prospered if not for it. Not every young talent is lucky enough to have that kind of support. The history of Indian cricket is littered with stories of young exciting talent falling by the way side due to a lack of support and guidance,” he explained.