Indian domestic cricket November 7, 2010

Hanumangarh, India's fast-bowling factory

I'm quite fascinated with the interviews teen sensation Deepak Chahar is busy giving, one after the other

I'm quite fascinated with the interviews teen sensation Deepak Chahar is busy giving, one after the other. People want to know what he eats, or whether he can bowl as fast as Brett Lee, or which IPL team he would like to play for. What no one seems to be asking, though, is where Deepak Chahar comes from. The answer might help us understand the events which have led to the making of the young prodigy.

It's always easy to form an opinion by just looking at the surface. Since he's a frequent sight at the NCA, and been playing age-group tournaments for quite a while, it's convenient to give credit, for once, to the otherwise much criticized system. You have to dig a little deeper to know the real story.

Chahar belongs to a district called Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. What Sansarpur is to hockey, Hanumangarh is to fast bowling. They have been producing fast bowlers by the dozen and the credit must go to one man who has dedicated himself to the craft, Navendu Tyagi. His passion for the skill compensates for the lack of infrastructure in a small district. He is a hard task master and making players physically fit is his top priority. He ensures that his wards go through a rigorous cardio routine, which, at times, includes going for a run at 2 pm in scorching desert heat. He generally accompanies them, either on foot, or on his old bike.

He also takes his pupils to a summer camp in Rishikesh every year. While the kids pay for their travelling expense, Tyagi takes care of everything else including the boarding and lodging. They stay in a basic dharamshala and the day starts at 5am with yoga. Then they run in the hills, followed by some strengthening exercises using their own body weight in the evening. It may be preferable to choose a place with modern facilities, but since that's not financially feasible, a getaway to Rishikesh during the peak summer season is the next best thing.

The coach also takes great care in preparing the practice tracks in Hanumangarh. It always has a good covering of grass and decent bounce to keep the pace men interested. Slowly but steadily his efforts have started bearing fruit - most of the fast bowlers representing Rajasthan at various age group levels now come from Hanumangarh. In fact, there are so many of them, they have started lending bowlers to other districts.

I am told that there was a time when nine out of the playing XI were fast bowlers in the district's team. Deepak would either open or bat at No. 3 for his side, which did well to improve his batting skills, but obviously meant trouble for the team. They would regularly dismiss the other side for a paltry total, but would get out for an even lower total. The district got relegated twice to be in the lowest division. Nobody, though, seems to complaining.

If one man's dedication and passion can do so much, a collective effort towards a particular goal could easily do wonders. What say?

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here