'Facilities in Karnataka will produce more national players'
Former India bowlers Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, who also hold top positions at the Karnataka State Cricket Association, are confident that the growing cricketing infrastructure around the state will help Karnataka win Ranji Trophy titles and produce more India cricketers. Both were speaking at a function in Bangalore to launch the platinum jubilee celebrations of the KSCA.
Karnataka won the last of their six Ranji titles in 1998-99, winning three of those starting from the 1995-96. That era produced several cricketers who also featured for India, including Srinath, Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Venkatesh Prasad, Sunil Joshi, Vijay Bharadwaj and Dodda Ganesh. In recent years, the representation has reduced, with fast bowler Vinay Kumar the most favoured Karnataka player among the national selectors. The side came close to regaining the title in 2009-10, losing a tense final to Mumbai.
The KSCA recently has spread the game to towns outside of Bangalore, hosting Ranji games in places like Shimoga, Mysore and Hubli and the spectator response has been encouraging. The team was knocked out in the quarter-finals last season but Kumble, the KSCA president, said there were positives to draw from the team's performances in recent seasons.
"The infrastructure has been put in place not just in Bangalore but other parts of Karnataka. It will take some time and I'm sure it will come up," Kumble said. "We have a good, young team which had done exceptionally well in the last year. They came close, losing out to Saurashtra. It's just the matter of one moment that you need to take to the cricket field in a difficult time. That's something that with experience they will come good and hopefully this season we can win the Ranji Trophy.
"Having said that, with all the infrastructure and the developments that have happened, I can assure you that in the years to come there will be a lot more victories to celebrate and greater representation in the Indian team as well from Karnataka."
Srinath, the KSCA secretary, said titles would come so long as players from across the state have access to similar facilities that are available within Bangalore.
"Our objective has been to take the game to all the jurisdictions of KSCA. We need to replicate what we have in Mysore or Bangalore or even better," Srinath told ESPNcricinfo. "The kids in and around these districts will have access to anything and everything. There is a uniformity in terms of infrastructure which is very crucial to us. Turf wickets are a must, we don't believe in matting wickets.
"Unless you have uniformity in infrastructure it's going to be tough for us to expect the players to play the same kind of cricket."
Vinay is an example of an outstation player who has come made it to the national team and Srinath felt that the number of such players will only increase. "There is tremendous talent," he said. "You normally have four to five guys from outside Bangalore and with this infrastructure I expect more people."
The KSCA has several events planned over the months as part of its celebrations, including a live discussion featuring Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Sunil Gavaskar and Bishen Bedi, on August17. There will also be a discussion on club cricket in Karnataka, featuring Srinath, Dravid and author Ramachandra Guha.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo