India domestic news June 18, 2012

KSCA launches new academy in Bangalore

The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) has formally launched its academy in Bangalore, the first of a series of centres it plans to set up across the state. Its USP will rest on two principles: avoiding the traditional focus on age-group representation, and decentralising its coaching structure away from Bangalore and to other towns in Karnataka.

Javagal Srinath, the former India fast bowler and current KSCA secretary, said around 360 teenage cricketers from around Karnataka had been picked for the first batch of the Royal Challengers KSCA academy, which is sponsored by the UB group, owners of the Bangalore IPL franchise. The academy hub will be at a 33-acre property in Alur, on the outskirts of Bangalore, where the KSCA has developed three grounds.

One of the main aims of the academy was to enhance the talent pool available in the state, Srinath said. "We are trying to invest at least three years in each student we pick. What used to happen until now was that those who don't make it after the age-group selection vanish (they are no longer in the system). The dearth of prominent cricketers from Karnataka in the past 14-16 years, for me, is because of the overemphasis on representation."

A little over a decade ago, the Indian team regularly featured three or four Karnataka players, but since then cricketers from the state, such as Robin Uthappa and fast bowlers Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, have struggled to become permanent members of the national team.

Srinath said the academy, which will function throughout the year, will provide coaching and cricket facilities even to those who don't make the state teams at the age-group level. "The boy has to be patient - and so must the parents, who are the biggest stakeholders. All they should worry about is whether the players' skills are being developed."

Convincing students and their parents to stick with the game is one way to increase the available talent; providing top-quality infrastructure to the smaller cities in the state is another. Satellite academies are coming up in six other cities: Mysore, Shimoga, Mangalore, Tumkur, Hubli and Raichur. The Mysore branch will be inaugurated later this week.

"I come from Mysore and I always had this grouse that the infrastructure in Mysore is not as good as it is in Bangalore," Srinath said. "The lack of infrastructure gave me a false belief that my talent was not as good as those that are playing in Bangalore but now nobody in the smaller towns can complain about it."

The move to set up satellite academies is an addition to other attempts to spread the game in the state. The Karnataka Premier League, a Twenty20 league that featured teams from eight different zones in the state, has had two seasons in 2009 and 2010. Last year, a Ranji Trophy match was held in Shimoga for the first time in 32 years.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo