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April 23, 2010

Samir Chopra

The true cricketing wealth of a nation

Samir Chopra


How much of the BCCI's fortunes have flowed back into local development schemes for cricket? © PA photos
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India, we are told, is the world's richest cricketing nation. I presume the wealth in question has something to do with its "burgeoning middle-class", the IPL, and something called TRPs. But what of the cricketing wealth in India? How does the Indian balance-sheet stack up on that account?

Years ago, when comparisons between "blue-collar Bankstown boy" Steve Waugh, and "Maharajah Snooty" Sourav Ganguly were common (and invariably unfavorably inclined away from the Indian captain), I was struck by the absurdity of it all. Ganguly might have grown up in a household with hired help (an unimaginable luxury in the Waugh household, I'm sure) but in cricketing terms he was a pauper when it came to Waugh. I do not doubt for a second that Captain Courageous grew up with access to an established, well-organized, cricketing structure, to cricket nets provided by the local council, to high-quality equipment, and all of the rest. And I'm willing to wager good money that Ganguly's access to anything similar was far more attenuated. When it came to cricketing riches, Steve Waugh was the true millionaire.

In 2000, shortly after I moved to Australia, I was asked by an office-mate (and future team-mate) whether I'd like "a net". A few days later, I was staggered to find out that we could just stroll up with a kitbag and lay claim to a pair of cricket nets at the Waverley Oval. We batted and bowled for over an hour, and repeated the process over the next few weeks as the suburban cricket season started up.

There never seemed to be a shortage of cricket nets all over Sydney; access was simple and free. Most city councils featured a large and beautiful oval (Bankstown has one; I saw a limited overs game there between New South Wales and Queensland). When we wanted to get fancy, we booked a net at the SCG (the practice facilities for which featured 12 nets with playing surfaces varying in bounce and pace). (The major cricketing grounds were, of course, comfortable more often than not, and spending a day at them was the furthest thing from an imposition).

My reaction to this cornucopia of cricketing affordances was one of unbridled amazement. Precisely how easy was it in this country to play cricket, to nurture it, to foster its future growth? Very, it seemed to me. Of course, this assessment grossly understates the hard work and the effort put into the creation of such an environment. And it also understates the financial backing for the creation of such cricketing nurseries. Be that as it may, the final evidence was there for all to see. Cricket had been woven into daily life; playing and practicing the game was made easy and pleasurable.

Which finally, brings me back to India. After three years of the IPL, and several more years of the financial domination of the BCCI, how much richer in cricketing terms is India? How much of the BCCI's fortunes have flowed back into local development schemes for cricket? Do we have a cricket net in each major urban neighborhood, or perhaps BCCI-subsidized cricket nets at schools and colleges? I know that space and population constraints in India are severe, and do not allow for a direct comparison with countries like Australia. But I'm still genuinely curious. Besides the attention paid to endeavors like sponsoring the India A tours, or age-group tournaments, will the BCCI ever take a crack at upgrading cricket facilities across the country so that the next generation of cricketers can grow up with ready access to the game?

If and when that happens, the descriptions of the cricketing wealth will ring a little truer and displace the current sensation of watching the relentless accumulation of non-cricketing wealth by a select few. That includes those domestic players lucky enough to be selected for an IPL-paypacket. The fortunes of these players have certainly improved, but that does not diminish the need for the creation of a cricket environment that can nurture the next generation of Indian cricket.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by kumar on (May 15, 2010, 20:33 GMT)

we have a population of over a billion and we cant even produce a fast bowler who can reach speeds of over 150 is outrageous(umesh yadav being the exception)i mean bowlers come and go no one with the intent to win the game or the passion to do so, its like a lottery yay i am in the team now let me fill my bank account first perform well for a few weeks and think that its enough.All we need is one simple rule you wanna be rich bloody well earn it no win no pay

Posted by Dan on (May 15, 2010, 11:36 GMT)

Having such a huge population, the odds are higher that a 'naturally' talented cricketer will emerge through the ranks in India. It is, therefore, a testiment to the resources put into grassroots cricket in Australia that a country with a comparetively small population could produce cricketers that not just compete on the world stage, but were able to dominate for over a decade. You cannot deny that infastructure at the lower levels is essential.

Posted by srini on (May 12, 2010, 21:53 GMT)

Good to see an article finally addressing cricket infrastructure in India, anyone who grew up in India can identify with this and also any kids currently struggling to find space to play

Posted by shyam on (May 5, 2010, 16:49 GMT)

Such a nice article . So nice to read it.I wish BCCI officials atleast share a small portion of IPL wealth with domestic cricket associations and enrich cricketing talent in India. It should be that people bigger states or richer families can pave their way easily to cricket arena. Even the poor should have acces to all these facilties so that genuine talent can be nurtured. Not all money should go to the pockets of Modi's Mallya's ,Ambani's so on and so forth.

Posted by Anonymous on (April 28, 2010, 7:34 GMT)

guys cricket is a great passion in sub continent.but when you are talking about popularity and money ccricket is far behind than baseball or tennis.ipl have been held for only three years.the money will take more time to show its effect.look at dr dy patil stadium.india didnt have a stadium like this 10 years ago except eden.waugh and ganguly both are legends.some comments show disrespect to them both.jamaika now a days have the best athletes but they didnt have the facilities needed.but indeed it is true that you need facilities to keep finding new talents.

Posted by Akash on (April 25, 2010, 10:36 GMT)

agree with faisal's views. unrealistic to think of having the same facilties in India as in Australia due to the huge population. but that can be turned in our favour by providing quality manpower to our budding talents. a very authentic article. need more of these.

Posted by Paul on (April 25, 2010, 10:22 GMT)

Akash - Australia's land mass is 7,686,850 square kilometres. India's is 3,287,590 square kilometres. Australia is therefore 2.33 times bigger than India - not five times as quoted. You should note that around 70% of Australia is uninhabitable desert (unless you are a Aboriginal with bushcraft).

There might not be many young Tendulkars on the horizon in India but there are no young Warnes on the radar in Australia.

Posted by Vanchy on (April 25, 2010, 7:06 GMT)

BRILLIANT!I am an Indian based in South Africa. Till a year ago used to play regularly in the Durban Leagues. Guess what! We played on Turf wickets, something that only First class cricketers ever get to play in India. The rest of us all play on matting. Nets in India - What is that! To put the South African experience into into perspective we practiced at the Kingsmead indoor nets once a week with access to bowling machines and all of of that. Was it you who wrote about in one of your earlier posts comparing the Kanga league and Sydney leagues about the knowledge and quality of players. I am sure what you have written as answered that query.I have personally known brillinat criketers who never got the opportunity because of a lack of practice facilities near their homes and who moved on, i will reserve for another comment about many cricketers who left the game because of the wheeling and dealing of the cricket administrators. Anyone in India listening:Answer is an EMPTHATIC NO.

Posted by Amit on (April 25, 2010, 4:10 GMT)

Samir, I could relate to what you are saying. Growing up in Bombay, we practically had no space to play and yet we kept playing cricket all the time. Th e only shot we ever played was a straight drive or dil-scoop. The rest never fetched any runs, as the building walls blocked it (or worse when we broke the glass window and were all grounded for a few days) Then I went to my undergrad at IIT kharagpur and access to resource galore. Just about anything from nets to a proper cricket ground dedicated to just one cricket match a time to a cricket kit. Then I came to US, and was stunned to see the facilities here, for just about any sport. I understood, why a billion people would not produce a decent eleven, up until recent years, when money started pouring in, and presumably facilities and incentive at grass root level got better (than before) -Amit

Posted by Gagan on (April 25, 2010, 0:14 GMT)

Nicely written, stopped playing cricket to become what parents wanted. Finally stopped playing even for recreation level for this very infrastructure, never wanted to bowl to senior w/o any oppotunity to bat. I was stuck hard in USA to see tennis/baseball infrastructure. We are still undeveloped nation, some of us who have broken into upper middle class, does not mean we are developed. A lot to be done, when will Indians in power start behaving like they deserve. Thanks again man!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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