'An incredible feat' - Kambli
Vinod Kambli, the former Indian middle-order batsman whose 664-run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar in school cricket was recently bettered by a Hyderabad duo, has hailed the "incredible" feat, adding that he was "shocked" at the run-rate achieved by the two batsmen.
Manoj Kumar and Mohammed Shaibaz, opening for St Peter's School in Hyderabad, rattled off 721 runs in just 40 overs, thereby putting several records in the shade. "It's good to see that the boys were hungry to score big," Kambli told Cricinfo. "They seem to have been told about the record and how to get there, but they deserve all the credit. We created our record in the late '80s and it stood for so long. Sri Lanka's two batsmen [Jayawardene and Sangakkara] came close but couldn't get it."
Refusing to buy the argument that schools cricket makes for easy records, Kambli stressed on the physical and mental toughness that such a feat demanded. "It's extremely difficult unless you have some talent," he said. "Our coach used to constantly tell us that 30s and 40s are just not good enough. It was tougher for us because schools cricket was more competitive that time - cricketers we played against went on to play for Mumbai and Sairaj Bahutule played for India also. It was largely because of our coach [Ramakant Achrekar] who kept telling us to always try for a big score. Even if we got a double-hundred or a triple-hundred he never used to congratulate us. He used to ask, 'Why didn't you stay not out?'"
Kambli, who's currently getting back to full fitness ahead of the Ranji Trophy season, was happy that, unlike in his time, exceptionally talented school cricketers had a monitoring process in place. "Really good school cricketers, especially those with exceptional records, need to be part of a monitoring system," he said. "In our time, there were many cricketers more talented than me who didn't make it to the Ranji or U-19 side and quit the game. There was no scope for them beyond a point and they ended up as businessmen or took up other professions. My only advice to young cricketers is, 'Don't give up hope. Cricket and studies can go together.'"
What saddened Kambli, though, was the step-motherly treatment given to schools cricket these days, once a training ground for several promising careers. "Almost all the Test legends have excelled in cricket at the school level. Sunil Gavaskar, one of my cricketing idols, always used to stress the importance of schools cricket. That's where you start to learn and build your basics. When I was playing for my school, I started gaining so much confidence. Your level improves every day and it makes your more competitive."
On a more personal note, Kambli, who wasn't named in the initial Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad, spoke of his immediate targets. "I'm just getting back into peak fitness as I want to be fully fit before playing for Mumbai. I don't want to let my team down when not totally fit. I'm trying to get fit as soon as possible. My hands are itching to get out there and perform."
He reiterated the role played by his wife in keeping his interest alive. "Even during the hard times, thoughts of giving up the game never came into my mind," he said. "My wife always stood by me. She used to always tell me, 'Vinod I want to see you playing'. Her instinct and desire kept it alive. I'm itching to get into the Wankhade Stadium and start playing."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo