June 28, 2000

Hanumant rules out return of trainees

The authorities at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) mean business. They have made it clear that indiscipline of any sort, be it misbehaviour or hiding injuries, will not be tolerated. Overall, there is little doubt that this kind of firm approach will do much to inculcate discipline among the youngsters and as everyone associated with the sport is aware, this is one of the first qualities that is needed for a cricketer to succeed.

NCA director Hanumant Singh has ruled that there is no question of the three released players being pardoned, regardless of the written apologies given by them. He has stood by his view that sufficient warning had been given to the trio during the first semester.

"I have not accepted their apologies. If they are interested, they could appeal to NCA Chairman Raj Singh Dungarpur and return to the academy," Hanumant Singh said in Bangalore on Tuesday. It may be recalled that Punjab and India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh Bengal opening batsman Nikhil Haldipur and Railways and Indian left-arm spinner Karthik Murali were recently `released' from the academy at the end of the first semester. The NCA was inaugurated on May 1.

On the face of it, Hanumant seems to have left an avenue open for the three players to try and come back. But on closer scrutiny, their return is unlikely. For, according to NCA sources, the decision to remove the three players was taken in consultation with Raj Singh, who apparently was in agreement with Hanumant's assessment of the situation.

Moreover, replacements have already been named in Punjab's Manish Sharma, Rajasthan's Nikhil Doru and Saurashtra's Rakesh Dhruv who have already reported for the new semester.

Hanumant maintains that the three players had not not been sacked but only released. But whether they were sacked or released, the fact remains that they are no longer with the academy and their return is almost certainly ruled out. According to the 61-year-old former Indian batsman, the decision was ``conscious and unanimous'' as everyone involved with the functioning of the NCA was in broad agreement on the issue. ``They had been warned and offered counselling sufficient number of times but they had not mended their ways during the six weeks in the first semester," he said. Hanumant stressed that some kind of action was necessary as otherwise the atmosphere at the camp would have been vitiated.

According to reports, Bengal all-rounder Lakshmi Ratan Shukla has also been released from the academy as his injury needed treatment and he was in no position to return for the second semester. "We did not want to wait for the player for too long," said Hanumant. However Punjab batsman Yuvraj Singh who had returned following an injury is back at the camp, which started its second semester on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the BCCI consultant and former Australian stumper Rodney Marsh has arrived to review the progress of the academy. He is expected to offer suggestions and corrective measures, if necessary. One is sure he will agree with the move of the NCA authorities to enforce discipline.

More former greats are expected at the NCA shortly. Former Indian captain Bishen Singh Bedi is coming next week to offer tips to the boys. Two other former Indian captains S Venkataraghavan and Kapil Dev have also been invited to the academy.