Indian domestic cricket January 24, 2013

The city v small-town cricketer

33

A few years ago, when I was still playing for Delhi, I saw a young Delhi batsman struggling against short-pitched deliveries in the nets. He had the tendency to square up the moment the bowler dug it short, and to add to his woes he would also take his eye off the ball. More often than not, the ball crashed into his body or helmet. He needed a little help, obviously, but was too bigheaded to ask for it. Or perhaps he was shy. So, I made the first move and asked him about his apparent discomfort. To my disbelief he didn't acknowledge there was any particular problem while facing the short ball. When I pointed to the deliveries that had him jumping like a cat on a hot tin roof, he continued to be defiant and said that it wasn't as serious as I was making it out to be. I got the message and didn't pursue further.

Was it an aberration? Unfortunately, it wasn't. The moment you try telling a youngster about the things he may not be doing right, he would not only rubbish your observations but also 'enlighten' you on how it is done these days.

Most young cricketers from the metros have a similar mindset now: oozing with confidence, brash and close to becoming haughty. The veterans in the team don't take long to accept their new role in such a scenario, which is limited to minding their own business and offering 'limited' advice, and that too only when they are asked.

I went to Rajasthan with a similar mindset and thought of keeping to myself in the beginning, for being told to mind your own business isn't very nice. But that didn't last long, for shortly after I got acquainted with the new environment and people, kids started coming up to me for advice. They would not only listen but also follow almost every instruction. Their inquisitive nature reminded me of my younger days - a time when we used to wait for a senior cricketer to come for practice and share his experience and knowledge. During those days, the exposure to the outside world was limited and it was imperative to pick up whatever you could whenever you met these experienced cricketers. Also, observing how these successful players conducted themselves was another important tool for learning.

That's how it is in smaller state teams even now. Youngsters are far more grounded and willing to learn compared to their counterparts from big cities. The normal chats in the Delhi dressing room revolved around new gadgets, cars, Facebook likes and Twitter followers. There was a bit of cricket too, but it wasn't an all-consuming topic. There were distractions, which were increasing by the minute. Their strong social and economic background also contributed to their carefree attitude, for there wasn't a need for a back-up plan.

On the contrary, for the youth in the smaller towns of India, cricket remains their only route to get away from the struggles. The lack of exposure hurts them and the moment they interact with a senior, they use him as a window to get a peep into the world not known to them hitherto. Though they are immensely focused, since failure isn't an option, you'd rarely find a guy without a back-up plan. Most guys try to add another degree (through correspondence) to their graduation degree, and those who don't also keep saving to secure their future post their playing days.

While there are many things to appreciate about these kids from smaller towns, right from their unadulterated focus for cricket to their penchant to work harder than most, the lack of confidence in their own ability often hampers their growth. Their lack of confidence stems from their lack of exposure to the outside world and also the lack of good infrastructure in their own towns.

After playing two seasons for Rajasthan and a season for Himachal Pradesh, I believe that it isn't the dearth of talent that's stopping smaller teams but essentially the lack of similar opportunities, experience and confidence. The ones who manage to break that barrier and are fortunate enough to venture outside from an early age have managed to shed those inhibitions. They are the future heroes of Indian cricket--the likes of MS Dhoni have done a world of good in boosting their morale.

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

  • Suman on February 4, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    Akash, that's a brilliant article. To be honest, I would definitely like to see someone like you in some capacity on the BCCI. A role like spotting new talent and nurturing them in the NCA comes to mind immediately.

  • NABIN KUMAR KHARA on January 28, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    It's very good to see cricket reaching all parts of the country and players such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar coming from these smaller cities. The BCCI is making efforts to take cricket in all corners of the country and improving the infrastructure.It's a challenge, not easy to bring more boys in cricket. But the development is in process and Indian cricket fraternity is encouraging boys to take cricket..........

  • Ujjwal Ingolikar on January 27, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    Good to know some of the inside stories that goes on inside the dressing rooms. However, I feel the title for this could well have been The qualities of a small town Cricketer as it mostly explains the situations which these cricketers turn to their advantage, which a big city player might not. Although not shocked, but surprised to see that there are a few state players who carry ambitions of being a part of the Indian team one day, to turn down the advises of the senior players. This should in fact be an ideal opportunity, which might just help them to overcome their difficulties. Not sure is this is more due to their brazen attitude or if they have been advised by their respective coaches, not to seek too many advises. Was amused when Gambhir's coach recently said that he cannot see any flaws with Gambhir's technique, where as an ordinary cricket fan can point out at least two. Denying the shortcomings haven't helped anybody till now and would not help in future as well.

  • NABIN KUMAR KHARA on January 27, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    In rural area have more quality player than urban area but real problem is they can't able to show their quality.

  • Mrudang T on January 27, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Dear Akash, I appreciate your observation and effort to throw light on this topic. But I believe talent is scattered everywhere, through out the India. So, forming an perception that small town cricketers are better learners and metro boys are not, is wrong. The way goldsmith can judge a real gold, senior cricketers like you should be able to find out talent everywhere irrespective of from where he is coming from.

  • Abhishek on January 26, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    2011 squad consisted of 4 metro guys - sehwag,viru, sachin,aswin. rest everybody came from tier 2 and 3 which speaks volumes of the talent we have untapped in the great indian cricket market. Eg - Captain of Team India.

  • md on January 26, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    @ Rishi . you took the words right out of my mouth !

  • waassim on January 26, 2013, 18:28 GMT

    You took me and placed me back into memories. Don't think that I'm an old fellow! I'm not that old, just turning 24 after loosing hope with a cricketing career. When I was an aspiring cricketer these where all common for me/us. And being a small town lad my best wishes where to play for the state, unlike big town boys who only wish to play for India. Cricket has grown to infinite in our country but some states stays the same, not that there isn't enough potential but people who are chaired isn't good. It's Indian politics prevailing inside associations. Experiences had made me and many to regret or to change your club/ state/ even country; so that we could wear some colors for the passion of the game. But the latter part is just another thought for all of us. Not dragging too much... It was a great read indeed. :)

  • Ash Townsend on January 26, 2013, 15:47 GMT

    Thank you Aakash for such an insightful and beautifully written piece, Comfort and distraction are indeed the enemies of personal growth.

  • hitesh on January 26, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Excellent Article!!! Its not only in our country, we can observe such kind of Injustice in other cricket playing countries also.If you are from a costly background you will definitely be in the eyes of the selector!!! That's the present scenario....

  • Suman on February 4, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    Akash, that's a brilliant article. To be honest, I would definitely like to see someone like you in some capacity on the BCCI. A role like spotting new talent and nurturing them in the NCA comes to mind immediately.

  • NABIN KUMAR KHARA on January 28, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    It's very good to see cricket reaching all parts of the country and players such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar coming from these smaller cities. The BCCI is making efforts to take cricket in all corners of the country and improving the infrastructure.It's a challenge, not easy to bring more boys in cricket. But the development is in process and Indian cricket fraternity is encouraging boys to take cricket..........

  • Ujjwal Ingolikar on January 27, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    Good to know some of the inside stories that goes on inside the dressing rooms. However, I feel the title for this could well have been The qualities of a small town Cricketer as it mostly explains the situations which these cricketers turn to their advantage, which a big city player might not. Although not shocked, but surprised to see that there are a few state players who carry ambitions of being a part of the Indian team one day, to turn down the advises of the senior players. This should in fact be an ideal opportunity, which might just help them to overcome their difficulties. Not sure is this is more due to their brazen attitude or if they have been advised by their respective coaches, not to seek too many advises. Was amused when Gambhir's coach recently said that he cannot see any flaws with Gambhir's technique, where as an ordinary cricket fan can point out at least two. Denying the shortcomings haven't helped anybody till now and would not help in future as well.

  • NABIN KUMAR KHARA on January 27, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    In rural area have more quality player than urban area but real problem is they can't able to show their quality.

  • Mrudang T on January 27, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Dear Akash, I appreciate your observation and effort to throw light on this topic. But I believe talent is scattered everywhere, through out the India. So, forming an perception that small town cricketers are better learners and metro boys are not, is wrong. The way goldsmith can judge a real gold, senior cricketers like you should be able to find out talent everywhere irrespective of from where he is coming from.

  • Abhishek on January 26, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    2011 squad consisted of 4 metro guys - sehwag,viru, sachin,aswin. rest everybody came from tier 2 and 3 which speaks volumes of the talent we have untapped in the great indian cricket market. Eg - Captain of Team India.

  • md on January 26, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    @ Rishi . you took the words right out of my mouth !

  • waassim on January 26, 2013, 18:28 GMT

    You took me and placed me back into memories. Don't think that I'm an old fellow! I'm not that old, just turning 24 after loosing hope with a cricketing career. When I was an aspiring cricketer these where all common for me/us. And being a small town lad my best wishes where to play for the state, unlike big town boys who only wish to play for India. Cricket has grown to infinite in our country but some states stays the same, not that there isn't enough potential but people who are chaired isn't good. It's Indian politics prevailing inside associations. Experiences had made me and many to regret or to change your club/ state/ even country; so that we could wear some colors for the passion of the game. But the latter part is just another thought for all of us. Not dragging too much... It was a great read indeed. :)

  • Ash Townsend on January 26, 2013, 15:47 GMT

    Thank you Aakash for such an insightful and beautifully written piece, Comfort and distraction are indeed the enemies of personal growth.

  • hitesh on January 26, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Excellent Article!!! Its not only in our country, we can observe such kind of Injustice in other cricket playing countries also.If you are from a costly background you will definitely be in the eyes of the selector!!! That's the present scenario....

  • Anand Kumar on January 25, 2013, 17:38 GMT

    Another Good article from you Akash. You are really turning out to be a good writer. What I like most about you is, you have gone beyond Delhi and to cricketing backwaters states like Rajasthan and Himachal and helping the kids out. I so wished the indian cricket superstars (Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, Kumble) had done similar things to enrich Indian cricket immediately after retirement by playing atleast a season or two outside their home state. It would have done a world of good to Indian Cricket. But rather they would be confined to their love for local place thanks to Indians inability to rise above the ranks and do something for the country i.e the bigger goal.

    Having said that, I believe you have been a bit harsh on guys from metros and put all of them under the same basket which might not be true. But I would take this under the context and think you are right.

  • Salem Ramaswamy Shankar on January 25, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    AAkash, perhaps for the first time I could not entirely agree with you--Attitude is something to do with family upbringing and the company a cricketer chooses during his teens and to some extent his university education City cricketers are relatively pampered lot. though it could not be generalised. It could be said that cricketers from rural background are likely to stay levelheaded But you would appreciate the fact that even for humble rural cricketers unless they reach the metros their opportunities to succeed are very limited--It depends on how well they handle the transition and personal upgradation when they climb up the ladder

  • Jhaanish on January 25, 2013, 14:27 GMT

    I hope cricket board recognise your deep insight about cricket and offer you something substantial coaching assignment like india a coach.Perhaps I cant think of a better coach than u for indian cricket team

  • Harsh on January 25, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    Though sweeping generalizations can be unfair, your observations applies not only to Cricket, but to any other trade in India, be it education, business, media or anything else. There is nothing new in this, neither is there any reason for alarm. I think it's been like this forever. You cannot change human nature after all.

  • Rishi on January 25, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    was that young batsman Gautam Gambhir ????

  • Anonymous on January 25, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Your articles are really worth reading and this is yet another one. I just don't like the brashness with which guys like Kohli, Raina celebrate when they do something good. One can look at Dhoni, Sachin, Dravid when they were youngstars. Guys like Cook are such an example for others to emulate.

  • Bleed Blue77 on January 25, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    Very Well said!!

  • ygkd on January 25, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    Well said. When people talk of young talent, they're often seeing opportunities instead. Those with too many opportunities at their disposal are more likely to waste them. Those with too few will probably go un-noticed.

  • Ramesh on January 25, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    It is very easy to categorize players from the metros as pig-headed and cocky. R.Ashwin is from the metros. He seems ok to me. On the contrary, players like Jadeja seem to be quite cocky. Some of the most level headed cricketers India has ever produced are from the metros. Do the names Dravid, Kumble and Laxman sound familiar??

  • Hitesh on January 25, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    Over the last few years, Aakash has been doing a fantastic job by diagnosing the different problems at the domestic level in India. Be it the point system in Ranji, the pitches, the quality of pace and spin bowler or this article. He always hits on the nail. I hope he gets a role in BCCI at some level and I am sure, he will do his best to fine tune the things under his control!!

  • Eshwar Salivati on January 25, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    Good article....at times due to the invent of IPL, sometimes we get a feeling that these people from such places start developing egos...due to the big amounts that they get and they arent willing to put in the desired effort.

  • Sandeep Patil on January 25, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Akash, another great article. Likes of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Ajinkya Rahane are all small town guys and appear extremely focused on cricket and that's why are shining. I agree that there is no dearth of talent in India....particularly in rural india, its the exposure which is lacking and hence, the confidence to stand out

  • Varun on January 25, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    Probably your weakest article in terms of content Aakash.

  • Shuveshek on January 25, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    I think which Delhi Batsman Akash was referring to ;)

  • v.saleem on January 25, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    why cant the indian selectors give a chance to rishi dhawan to open the indian batting plus he can be the pace bowling allrounder india is looking for when it goes abroad,he its seems bowls at decent pace and can get 2 or 3 wickets and moves the ball both ways. instead of ashwin they can blood in parvez rasool for test cricket he is also a tremendous batsman.like wise india can get 5 bowler theory right going with this team. umesh yadav,ishant sharma,sandeep warrier or a promising tall left armer anwar ahammed from hyderbad, ambati raydu should also be apart of the team. Ladda of punjab is also abright prospect.

  • rajpan on January 25, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Yes Mr. Chopra, you are absolutely right. This is precisely what happens to sub-continent players when they tour Australia/England/Newzealand/S. Africa. This difference makes them somewhat less confident on foreign tours and hence the drop in performance. Only those mentally strong can overcome this and keep on with their good work. That is why some of them can not go beyond Ranji level even though they don't lack anything in terms of skills. This was also the reason why Mumbai(Bombay) were winners of Ranji trophy for such a long time till boys from Delhi/B'lore/Chennai started to stand up to them.

  • vishwa on January 25, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    Akash, bit of a harsh call to paint the same picture of all metro kids/cricketers. for e.g. hard to believe that mumbai keeps churning out quality cricketers with such an attitude. you know best about the delhi dressing room, but i would think that a lot of the kids in the delhi team would still be coming from not-so-rich background. ultimately its down to individual traits. kohli comes across as brash, but so does sreesanth who is from one of the smaller centers. you are right about the lack of confidence that inhibits the growth of upcoming cricketers from smaller centers. as always, astute observations and extremely good writing.

    vishwa

  • Vivek on January 24, 2013, 22:13 GMT

    Totally agree. Look at Virat Kohli. Success has gone to his head.

  • Aakash fan on January 24, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    I didn't find anything brilliant here but I am guessing since this a blog post and not an article, it wasn't meant to be.

    Yes, MSD should inspire small town folks.

  • Vishal Saikia on January 24, 2013, 18:51 GMT

    Really young generations of small are more curious to learn the game better!!

  • Ankit Bisht on January 24, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    One of the best written articles on the mindset of rural/urban youngsters. Indeed a keen insight. Thumbs Up

  • mohsinkhan on January 24, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    yessss u r ritee pajjiii.....whn i 1st came 2 delhi for practicing cricket, i hve observed d same as u did...nobody knwz m... bt whn i wrked hrd nd showed my performance thn people came 2 knw abut m nd my work...it was a gud experience....nd i'm enjying mu cricket...

  • Nikhil on January 24, 2013, 17:25 GMT

    Very well said. Also small town boys who play for bigger domestic teams (Mumbai etc) have been found to flaunt a kind of attitude hitherto unknown to them.

    Ex: Iqbal Abdulla from Azamgarh after playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and on tasting success with KKR now flaunts his property in Mumbai to young aspiring cricketers.

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  • Nikhil on January 24, 2013, 17:25 GMT

    Very well said. Also small town boys who play for bigger domestic teams (Mumbai etc) have been found to flaunt a kind of attitude hitherto unknown to them.

    Ex: Iqbal Abdulla from Azamgarh after playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and on tasting success with KKR now flaunts his property in Mumbai to young aspiring cricketers.

  • mohsinkhan on January 24, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    yessss u r ritee pajjiii.....whn i 1st came 2 delhi for practicing cricket, i hve observed d same as u did...nobody knwz m... bt whn i wrked hrd nd showed my performance thn people came 2 knw abut m nd my work...it was a gud experience....nd i'm enjying mu cricket...

  • Ankit Bisht on January 24, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    One of the best written articles on the mindset of rural/urban youngsters. Indeed a keen insight. Thumbs Up

  • Vishal Saikia on January 24, 2013, 18:51 GMT

    Really young generations of small are more curious to learn the game better!!

  • Aakash fan on January 24, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    I didn't find anything brilliant here but I am guessing since this a blog post and not an article, it wasn't meant to be.

    Yes, MSD should inspire small town folks.

  • Vivek on January 24, 2013, 22:13 GMT

    Totally agree. Look at Virat Kohli. Success has gone to his head.

  • vishwa on January 25, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    Akash, bit of a harsh call to paint the same picture of all metro kids/cricketers. for e.g. hard to believe that mumbai keeps churning out quality cricketers with such an attitude. you know best about the delhi dressing room, but i would think that a lot of the kids in the delhi team would still be coming from not-so-rich background. ultimately its down to individual traits. kohli comes across as brash, but so does sreesanth who is from one of the smaller centers. you are right about the lack of confidence that inhibits the growth of upcoming cricketers from smaller centers. as always, astute observations and extremely good writing.

    vishwa

  • rajpan on January 25, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Yes Mr. Chopra, you are absolutely right. This is precisely what happens to sub-continent players when they tour Australia/England/Newzealand/S. Africa. This difference makes them somewhat less confident on foreign tours and hence the drop in performance. Only those mentally strong can overcome this and keep on with their good work. That is why some of them can not go beyond Ranji level even though they don't lack anything in terms of skills. This was also the reason why Mumbai(Bombay) were winners of Ranji trophy for such a long time till boys from Delhi/B'lore/Chennai started to stand up to them.

  • v.saleem on January 25, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    why cant the indian selectors give a chance to rishi dhawan to open the indian batting plus he can be the pace bowling allrounder india is looking for when it goes abroad,he its seems bowls at decent pace and can get 2 or 3 wickets and moves the ball both ways. instead of ashwin they can blood in parvez rasool for test cricket he is also a tremendous batsman.like wise india can get 5 bowler theory right going with this team. umesh yadav,ishant sharma,sandeep warrier or a promising tall left armer anwar ahammed from hyderbad, ambati raydu should also be apart of the team. Ladda of punjab is also abright prospect.

  • Shuveshek on January 25, 2013, 5:14 GMT

    I think which Delhi Batsman Akash was referring to ;)