December 31, 2010

The anonymous world of net bowlers

It's always the guy from outside, who's smart enough to understand that bowling in the nets is only tiring and not rewarding, who makes the cut
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They come half an hour before the team arrives, as they can't be late. They warm up on their own, for the team can't be fiddled with; they bowl their hearts out while the rest go through the motions because there's a match round the corner.

A rather nonchalant "well bowled" means the world to them and that's what keeps them going till they drop. They hope to catch the coach's eye if he finds the time after he's done with the main guys. Then they will be mere spectators while the team goes through its fielding drills or stretching sessions; they must do it themselves, for they are the supporting actors and not the main lead. These are the guys who make practice sessions possible, for no team carries more than a few bowlers in the squad and it's almost certain that the main guys won't bowl for long, let alone at full throttle between matches. Welcome to the unknown world of the anonymous "net bowlers".

Every team, national or international, relies heavily on these supporting actors to make their sessions possible. But, unfortunately, very few teams understand their importance, let alone make them a part of their set-up. Often they are treated like second-grade citizens with no right to demand any luxuries. And that's where, I think, teams need to develop compassion. In small places it doesn't cost them much to commute from their home to the stadium but in places like Delhi and Mumbai, every practice session means a few hundred rupees. But I don't know of any association that pays these guys to turn up day after day. The obvious question might be: why do they still come? It's not surprising because it is perhaps their only chance to come close to the big guys. Bowling to the known players in the nets is their only possible break to impress them and perhaps get noticed in the future. It's a gamble they are willing to take and what makes it worse is that there are always people who sell them the idea that they're in the mix.

But let me tell you that I haven't seen any of these 'net bowlers' getting picked, if and when the opportunity arises. It's always the guy from outside, who's smart enough to understand that bowling in the nets is only tiring and not rewarding, who makes the cut. Ironically, the main cast changes a few times in the same season, but the supporting troupe remains the same.

It may not be a bad idea to ensure that they're paid for every visit. Every association gets crores from the BCCI to spend on cricket and justifying a few thousand rupees for these kids won't be too tough.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • firdaus vajifdar on January 18, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    Dear Aakash, I always read your articles and am a big fan of your writing.I really admire your thought for the under privileged NET BOWLERS,I also liked your idea of state associations for giving them some allowance for travelling & light snacks.please keep up with your good writing. Iam also happy to know about your good form with the bat & your contribution for Rajisthan winning the RANJI TROPTY.I would be the happiest the day you are recalled for Test duty.GOD BLESS. Firdaus Vajifdar.

  • Mohan on January 3, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Does it mean that the players picked in the international squad of 15 also resembles the same?Example Indian team for South Africa contains Umesh Yadav who bowls in nets but not in the match? Interesting article but dissappointing is a very short one.More busy hitting hundreds in Ranji Trophy? All the best wishes to get the Ranji Trophy for Rajasthan....

  • sam on January 3, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    Superb article chops...if you ask this question to bcci,they would say grounds are not under our control.

  • Manjunath Rao on January 3, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    Akash is on the dot with this blog. Net bowlers give their heart and soul to beat the stars so that they get noticed. There must be some compensation for straining to provide practice to the worlds or states best players.

    Compensation for their conveyance and effort can be great for starters but in the long run the state associations must take up these players needs and handpick few of them for larger role.

  • Thebigfatflapjack on January 3, 2011, 4:51 GMT

    very moving article mr akash chopra, really makes one feel for these guys who do the donkeys work so that the 'big boys' can perform in the big matchees.

    the frustration of these kids should be highlighted and they should be given their due credit be it financial reward, recognition or chances at bowling trials.

    keep it up.

  • Ram on January 3, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    A brilliant article Aakash. The work that these "net bowlers" put in day in and day out is commendable as the big guns can only bowl for so much time else they get injured. From a bowlers point of view one injury is good enough to end your so called career. Hope the net bowlers are paid well for their valliant efforts in helping the bigs to concentrate.

  • Anonymous on January 3, 2011, 0:29 GMT

    There are fairy tale stories. Like the one about the Australian legend Ray Lindwall. As a youngster, a 'net' bowler he once bowled to the State side of the Australian opener of those days - Jack Fingleton.

    It is said that in a period of half an hour, Fingleton was clean bowled 5 times and played and missed a dozen others. So it's not all doom and gloom.

  • Andrew edwards on January 2, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Akash very good article. From an indian perspective and most other ICC nations it is true. In my opinion I agree with you and you should look into cricket administration your heart and head are in the right place. However, brian lara did recommend fidel edwards after facing him in the nets. The rest is history.

  • EXUMA on January 2, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    most net bowlers cherish the chance to bowl to senior batsmen, a chance they will not get otherwise.a chance to tell their drinking buddies and later their grand kids that " I bowled tendulkar or lara". most will have to go through the structured cricket games to prove they are good. some do get reconition; imran khan picked wasin akram from a net session and if i am not wrong brian lara picked up on fidel edwards during a training session.

  • hungrypuffin on January 2, 2011, 12:49 GMT

    Great article. I have watched cricket for a few years and never even knew of the poor plight of these hard working men, or such job existed. Thank you for opening my eyes up to this matter.

  • firdaus vajifdar on January 18, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    Dear Aakash, I always read your articles and am a big fan of your writing.I really admire your thought for the under privileged NET BOWLERS,I also liked your idea of state associations for giving them some allowance for travelling & light snacks.please keep up with your good writing. Iam also happy to know about your good form with the bat & your contribution for Rajisthan winning the RANJI TROPTY.I would be the happiest the day you are recalled for Test duty.GOD BLESS. Firdaus Vajifdar.

  • Mohan on January 3, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    Does it mean that the players picked in the international squad of 15 also resembles the same?Example Indian team for South Africa contains Umesh Yadav who bowls in nets but not in the match? Interesting article but dissappointing is a very short one.More busy hitting hundreds in Ranji Trophy? All the best wishes to get the Ranji Trophy for Rajasthan....

  • sam on January 3, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    Superb article chops...if you ask this question to bcci,they would say grounds are not under our control.

  • Manjunath Rao on January 3, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    Akash is on the dot with this blog. Net bowlers give their heart and soul to beat the stars so that they get noticed. There must be some compensation for straining to provide practice to the worlds or states best players.

    Compensation for their conveyance and effort can be great for starters but in the long run the state associations must take up these players needs and handpick few of them for larger role.

  • Thebigfatflapjack on January 3, 2011, 4:51 GMT

    very moving article mr akash chopra, really makes one feel for these guys who do the donkeys work so that the 'big boys' can perform in the big matchees.

    the frustration of these kids should be highlighted and they should be given their due credit be it financial reward, recognition or chances at bowling trials.

    keep it up.

  • Ram on January 3, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    A brilliant article Aakash. The work that these "net bowlers" put in day in and day out is commendable as the big guns can only bowl for so much time else they get injured. From a bowlers point of view one injury is good enough to end your so called career. Hope the net bowlers are paid well for their valliant efforts in helping the bigs to concentrate.

  • Anonymous on January 3, 2011, 0:29 GMT

    There are fairy tale stories. Like the one about the Australian legend Ray Lindwall. As a youngster, a 'net' bowler he once bowled to the State side of the Australian opener of those days - Jack Fingleton.

    It is said that in a period of half an hour, Fingleton was clean bowled 5 times and played and missed a dozen others. So it's not all doom and gloom.

  • Andrew edwards on January 2, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Akash very good article. From an indian perspective and most other ICC nations it is true. In my opinion I agree with you and you should look into cricket administration your heart and head are in the right place. However, brian lara did recommend fidel edwards after facing him in the nets. The rest is history.

  • EXUMA on January 2, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    most net bowlers cherish the chance to bowl to senior batsmen, a chance they will not get otherwise.a chance to tell their drinking buddies and later their grand kids that " I bowled tendulkar or lara". most will have to go through the structured cricket games to prove they are good. some do get reconition; imran khan picked wasin akram from a net session and if i am not wrong brian lara picked up on fidel edwards during a training session.

  • hungrypuffin on January 2, 2011, 12:49 GMT

    Great article. I have watched cricket for a few years and never even knew of the poor plight of these hard working men, or such job existed. Thank you for opening my eyes up to this matter.

  • smart guy on January 2, 2011, 3:51 GMT

    Here is an idea for these net bowlers. Collect their names and create a list and help them create an association/union. Get them bargaining power (which is in their numbers). Mr. AC could take a lead. He is well known in domestic circuit.

  • Irfan on January 1, 2011, 19:53 GMT

    In Pakistan, there have been a few fortunate instances of net bowlers promoted to wear national colours. Wasim Akram being the most famous of all who impressed Javed Miandad during a net practice. Recently, an express bowler in Abu Dhabi.

  • Kishore on January 1, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    Having bowled at the nets myself at Shivaji Park many years ago, I feel compelled to take a different perspective. Very few if any from that crowd will make it to big time. The joy of playing the sport is the purpose compensation if any is the icing on the cake. Would anyone of us stop playing because we know there will be no monetary rewards? We are all cut out to be different, some will be professionals as Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers Business Mangers, and would never succede at pro sports. Having said that a college scholarship fund could be set up for aspiring atheletes. Encoraging more High Schools to have a team is another idea.

  • Rupjyoti on January 1, 2011, 14:46 GMT

    Very well said!hope the cash rich board notice this.

  • Zafar on January 1, 2011, 11:38 GMT

    Nice article. By the way I have read somewhere that two of the great fast bowlers, Wasim Akram and Lasith Malinga started were noticed as net bowlers. Maybe other countries have such a system in place to spot talent in net bowlers.

  • Nauman Mufti on January 1, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    I agree with you Aakash. These net bowlers need to be appreciated.

  • TRex on January 1, 2011, 7:21 GMT

    I really applaud this idea. Very thoughtful article.

  • Anand Menon on January 1, 2011, 6:30 GMT

    Wish people in power saw things the same way.....

  • Doc on January 1, 2011, 6:18 GMT

    Agree wholeheartedly.

  • Fingers on January 1, 2011, 5:33 GMT

    Not sure exactly how it works in India but in Australia, net bowlers are generally promising young bowlers from Grade teams who do it for the fun and experience of bowling to the 'big boys' - however none of them are under the illusion of being picked to play in a test or domestic first class match.

    The don't get paid - the act itself is enough. They would be working full time or young lads studying and their grade clubs send them off during the week (grade clubs work on a roster to provide net bowlers to the NSW squad I believe) to have a roll.

    I did myself once years ago - bowling to the NSW team in the nets at the SCG - fantastic experinece bowling to Mark Waugh and Michael Bevan and getting tips from Brett Lee.

  • Vipul on January 1, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    It's great of you Akash to at least highlight the role of these unsung heroes. Till the time they are rewarded for their efforts, this article will be a solace to them. In fact, suggesting your idea to Anil Kumble won't be a bad option. Now that he is in a position of authority, he can take up your suggestion and hopefully other boards will follow his example.

  • Ben on January 1, 2011, 4:24 GMT

    Thanks for this article Aakash. I personally had never heard of these 'net bowlers' before so I was very interested to read about them.

    Keep these 'insider perspectives' coming!

  • v1shwa on January 1, 2011, 4:19 GMT

    Nice article Aakash. Good to know that at least someone cares about them. Hope you are able to do something for them with the help of Delhi Cricket Association, and that the other associations pick it up from there.

  • unicorn on January 1, 2011, 4:06 GMT

    Straight from the heart!

  • Naveen on January 1, 2011, 3:53 GMT

    Good point..... well brought forward. Its an obscure topic that I am sure no one cares about. U do hope that these bowlers get lucky...even if it means getting paid for their visits only.

  • Manish Joshi on January 1, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    Yes,Aakash i am agree with you.BCCI should doen something for them.Because they are a basic unit of cricket,as you mention without them a single net session not possible.

  • Anurag on January 1, 2011, 0:02 GMT

    Ashish: I would be surprised if anyone in BCCI administration goes through your blog seriously but a genuine point well raised !

  • Sanket on December 31, 2010, 20:35 GMT

    The concern for the net bowlers is very genuine and they should be paid for every visit.

  • sachin naik on December 31, 2010, 19:44 GMT

    its been a phenomenal blog i ever read abt the back of stage..its like a shadow whose never been rewarded for being with the body. a secondry but a real aspect of life.net bowler should get rewarded and possible gains in domestic as their approach and their dedications..its been pleasure to know abt such issue..thanks for the coloum aakash..wish u luck and Happy new year

  • Allan on December 31, 2010, 18:29 GMT

    I was thinking about the same topic just a few days back....wow! A more in-depth article (on you blog perhaps) would be quite nice. Thanks!

  • Software Star on December 31, 2010, 18:12 GMT

    i agree with u.. it is a lot of time and money invested by parents of these kids. there are a lot of sacrifices made by them. as u mention, most of the kids and parents dream of each net session as one that can change their life. another point is; even if the parents know that this has no future, they usually allow the youth to go coz they dont want to kill their children's dreams.

    the least that the associations could do is to ensure that they pay good money to these net bowlers.

    great article!

  • Kumar on December 31, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    Aakash, you are doing yeoman service fordomestic cricket and the unsung heros. Hope BCCI can listen.

  • Azfar on December 31, 2010, 17:14 GMT

    Thanks Mr. Chopra for drawing attention to bowlers who make net practice possible. I completely agree with you that state cricket associations should pay these gentlemen, and it would be gracious of the teams to have their bowling coaches observe and give them advice on how they can improve their bowling. It might even be a good idea to make bowling at net practice a rite of passage for bowling talent trying to break into the team.

  • Srini on December 31, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    Absolutely right on the money!. I am glad you brought their plight forward.

    Ideally, the net bowlers should be Ranji or tier-2 level bowlers or prospects. I agree that they must be compensated and provided all facilities on par with main players fir the duration of net session for their efforts to keep the first team players ready for matches.

  • shamsuddin on December 31, 2010, 17:05 GMT

    its a gr8 appeal aakash.hope the cricket associations note this.

  • GAURAV SHARMA on December 31, 2010, 15:51 GMT

    The position of the net bowlers as stated by Akash truly reflects the controversy that occurs in the indian cricket and the lack of vision and initiative of the cricket associations...but change will remain only a dream untill something happens like that has hapened in the karnataka cricket association.only players and sportspersons can bring about the revolution and no one else.....

  • Mohammed Shaimoon on December 31, 2010, 15:11 GMT

    A very nice point raised and brought to light over here by you, Aakash. This is an area that none of the professionals have ventured into and am glad to know that there are still people like you out there championing for their cause. I guess I can fully understand and get a grasp of what you have written up there because I had been one of those 'net bowlers' for quite some time. Towards the end, it was quite heart-wrenching to be one.

  • Harminder on December 31, 2010, 14:47 GMT

    I agree Net bowlers have it tough. Having been a honest net bowler myself I understand how anonymous a net bowler is.However there is a purity in its amatuerishness and I feel it should be preserved. The net bowlers need to be paid a reasonable per-diem which I think they are. But to make them professional would mean some players would lower their bar and strive to be just a net-bowler ? I would rather the net bowlers be amateur who come a bowl with jest for the sheer love of the game and holding out to some small dreams of their own rather than making it a job. My 2 paise.

  • aditya on December 31, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    Great article aakash .. Defenitely an eye opener.

  • Surendra Nigam on December 31, 2010, 11:29 GMT

    I have always liked Akaash's articles. When ever I see his byeline never miss reading them. Very few Indian cricket writers write with such felicity. Does bowling at the nets not help in honing up their skills.This itself is a huge incentive.

  • venakta on December 31, 2010, 11:20 GMT

    well said. I hope that they get paid for their hard work

  • Prasana.R on December 31, 2010, 11:20 GMT

    well written..well said....They must be rewarded well

  • Prasanna Kumar on December 31, 2010, 11:12 GMT

    Very well said Akash!! Till now many of us didnt give a thought on this but the associations should have. You have touched a point which I feel no other person has. I hope the new year brings these NET BOWLERS something to cherish.

  • saket saurav on December 31, 2010, 10:34 GMT

    It's really one of the issues not many people have paid attention too. I don't know what is the exact system in place, but there has to be some rewards for them apart from occasional encouragement by players. It's true that just being in the presence of people you dream to be one day yourself, is a great feeling, and hardly anyone complaints about not being treated fairly, but wouldn't it be great if association and players could support them and reward them for their hard work. It would take just few words from players to make people and association aware of the issue and that could really work in their favour...

  • BAL GOVIND on December 31, 2010, 9:36 GMT

    Akash you are absolutely right...you have seen such things from very close quarters. And it is sheer unfortunate that these poor net bowlers had to go such drills day after day during international series and at the end of the day, they are the loser, because neither their hard work is recognized nor they get any monetary benefit. Hopefully someone in BCCI read this piece of yours and do something so that these bowlers's sweat have some return.

  • Andrew Sanderson on December 31, 2010, 9:23 GMT

    A tip of the hat to these men! I'd never really thought about these tireless bowlers that are also largely thankless! A great article!

  • Karthik on December 31, 2010, 8:54 GMT

    Nice post. You always bring in unexplored areas into discussion and this is a good thought.

  • Anonymous on December 31, 2010, 8:51 GMT

    great article from akash again..its great that he is able to see the efforts and struggle shown by the young kids!!a very heartfelt story really!!i agree with him,that the kids need to be helped in some way,coz many come from humble backgrounds and they need some help because otherwise they will drop out of the game some time later!!

  • Shantesh Row on December 31, 2010, 8:40 GMT

    Lovely insight Aakash. Not a topic that is always discussed or touched upon. But I guess it's not just about the net bowlers. Having lived at Shivaji Park all my life, have always noticed young boys from underprivileged backgrounds waiting next to the nets, hoping for one chance to bowl or bat, with the more privileged kids dressed in white. Thankfully, their innocence and obvious love for the game, has not been clouded or compromised by money. Like the unsung heroes who help our superheroes fine tune their skills in the net, all they want is their 15 minutes of fame under the sun. One chance to showcase their skills, feel and smell the leather of a season ball, and forget the dusty alleys where they play and enjoy the feeling of playing on a proper cricket pitch. Small mercies, small joys, but that's how they find their true reward.

  • Pradeep on December 31, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    Aakash

    You astound me with your ability to write about things which nobody else wants to write about. Yet another fantastic article. Why don't you start a school on Sports journalism?

  • Victory on December 31, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    Excellent blog Aakash, Every state cricket associate should provide benefits of some kind - monetary, cricket equipment etc for the supporting casts who go through a lot of hard work during a cricket season.

  • Mohan Ram on December 31, 2010, 8:06 GMT

    As usual Akash Chopra is right on the ball. Net Bowlers are like the film extras, in old days. The extras were paid poorly and treated badly until they organized themselves into unions and negotiated reasonable remuneration and fair treatment

    I agree net bowlers should be paid reasonably. The batsmen using their services should look out for talent and spot promising players and recommend them for chances. If a guy can penetrate Rahul Dravid's defences frequently in the nets or bowl Sachin round the legs, he deserves a look in for regular matches.

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  • Mohan Ram on December 31, 2010, 8:06 GMT

    As usual Akash Chopra is right on the ball. Net Bowlers are like the film extras, in old days. The extras were paid poorly and treated badly until they organized themselves into unions and negotiated reasonable remuneration and fair treatment

    I agree net bowlers should be paid reasonably. The batsmen using their services should look out for talent and spot promising players and recommend them for chances. If a guy can penetrate Rahul Dravid's defences frequently in the nets or bowl Sachin round the legs, he deserves a look in for regular matches.

  • Victory on December 31, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    Excellent blog Aakash, Every state cricket associate should provide benefits of some kind - monetary, cricket equipment etc for the supporting casts who go through a lot of hard work during a cricket season.

  • Pradeep on December 31, 2010, 8:37 GMT

    Aakash

    You astound me with your ability to write about things which nobody else wants to write about. Yet another fantastic article. Why don't you start a school on Sports journalism?

  • Shantesh Row on December 31, 2010, 8:40 GMT

    Lovely insight Aakash. Not a topic that is always discussed or touched upon. But I guess it's not just about the net bowlers. Having lived at Shivaji Park all my life, have always noticed young boys from underprivileged backgrounds waiting next to the nets, hoping for one chance to bowl or bat, with the more privileged kids dressed in white. Thankfully, their innocence and obvious love for the game, has not been clouded or compromised by money. Like the unsung heroes who help our superheroes fine tune their skills in the net, all they want is their 15 minutes of fame under the sun. One chance to showcase their skills, feel and smell the leather of a season ball, and forget the dusty alleys where they play and enjoy the feeling of playing on a proper cricket pitch. Small mercies, small joys, but that's how they find their true reward.

  • Anonymous on December 31, 2010, 8:51 GMT

    great article from akash again..its great that he is able to see the efforts and struggle shown by the young kids!!a very heartfelt story really!!i agree with him,that the kids need to be helped in some way,coz many come from humble backgrounds and they need some help because otherwise they will drop out of the game some time later!!

  • Karthik on December 31, 2010, 8:54 GMT

    Nice post. You always bring in unexplored areas into discussion and this is a good thought.

  • Andrew Sanderson on December 31, 2010, 9:23 GMT

    A tip of the hat to these men! I'd never really thought about these tireless bowlers that are also largely thankless! A great article!

  • BAL GOVIND on December 31, 2010, 9:36 GMT

    Akash you are absolutely right...you have seen such things from very close quarters. And it is sheer unfortunate that these poor net bowlers had to go such drills day after day during international series and at the end of the day, they are the loser, because neither their hard work is recognized nor they get any monetary benefit. Hopefully someone in BCCI read this piece of yours and do something so that these bowlers's sweat have some return.

  • saket saurav on December 31, 2010, 10:34 GMT

    It's really one of the issues not many people have paid attention too. I don't know what is the exact system in place, but there has to be some rewards for them apart from occasional encouragement by players. It's true that just being in the presence of people you dream to be one day yourself, is a great feeling, and hardly anyone complaints about not being treated fairly, but wouldn't it be great if association and players could support them and reward them for their hard work. It would take just few words from players to make people and association aware of the issue and that could really work in their favour...

  • Prasanna Kumar on December 31, 2010, 11:12 GMT

    Very well said Akash!! Till now many of us didnt give a thought on this but the associations should have. You have touched a point which I feel no other person has. I hope the new year brings these NET BOWLERS something to cherish.