The Heavy Ball

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Cricket cannot alienate young talent

Must we stand silently by as aspiring young players walk away disillusioned and turn to other careers? No, a thousand times no

Sidin Vadukut

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A
A commuter walks past an advertisement featuring photographs of Harbhajan Singh, MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag, Mumbai, February 9, 2011
We must allow every budding youngster an equal opportunity to display his painted torso to millions © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: India

Many years ago, way back when I was a gawky but not unhandsome boy of seven or eight, my younger brother and I used to spend our school summer vacations at my ancestral home in a tiny village in the southern Indian state of Kerala. (Kerala is also, incidentally, the home of Sreesanth, the cricketer popularly known as the Louis Vuitton of Indian pace bowling. This is because even though he is very expensive, he is very attractive and there is always very high demand for him. Especially in China.)

During these vacations I was normally watched over by my paternal uncle. My uncle, a kind and caring man, is of the persuasion that children should be involved in rigorous physical activity and should spend as little time as possible indoors. Doubly so in the case of me and my brother because our favourite indoor activities included gently electrocuting pets, liquidising small items of furniture in the blender, and going to the toilet in the VCR.

Therefore he devised a unique variant of cricket that would keep us occupied for the entire day. My uncle would bowl comfortable medium pace at one of us while the other one fielded. The batsman could only be dismissed if he was caught by the fielder. There were no stumps, no lbw, no run-outs, no stumpings or any other means of getting out. And of course there was no limit on the number of overs bowled.

Which means you either scored a four or a six. And nothing else.

Often one batsman could bat an entire day without being dismissed. My brother and I routinely batted for two or three days at a time before losing our wicket. And we used to score double- and triple-centuries with consummate ease.

Once in a while, during drinks breaks, I used to ask my uncle if I was now good enough to grow up and play for India. (Because deep inside every Indian child there is a dream to achieve great acclaim for his country's cricket team by appearing on huge billboards in body paint.)

"Oh no, no Sidin," my uncle used to say apologetically, "these days countries are scoring sometimes even 250 runs in one 50-over innings. You need to be able to score many thousands of runs in school and college before you are good enough, boy."

"But that is impossible, uncle!"

"Of course not. Look at Sachin and Kambli. They scored 664 runs in just one innings for their school team in 1988. Surely Tendulkar and Kambli will become great players for India, even though Kambli will eventually burn out and be dropped for good in 2000."

"But we are still in 1991, uncle!"

"Yes, but you're writing your column in 2011."

Dejected at my lack of merit, I would then go and puree a small cushion.

 
 
The future of the sport depends on creating an environment less hostile to young cricketers whose abilities are less than genius, well above average, above average, average, just below average, well below average, Boycott's Grandmother, and Associate Nation
 

I believe that the recent spurt in ODI scoring will exacerbate this problem for young upcoming cricketers everywhere. They are going to watch teams score 350 and 400 runs in just 50 overs, on a regular basis, and wonder if they are ever good enough to make that cut.

Tiny little cricketing prodigies will jubilantly run back home from school, having scored a technically perfect 115 off 89 balls. Only to see that a part-timer from Ireland, who can't even comb his hair properly, has scored a century off 43 balls, including 67 dot-balls. Demoralised, they will decide to give up cricket and instead become doctors, engineers, bookies or columnists.

Cricket cannot afford to be a silent spectator to this tragedy. The future of the sport depends on creating an environment less hostile to young cricketers whose abilities are less than genius, well above average, above average, average, just below average, well below average, Boycott's Grandmother, and Associate Nation.

Perhaps we could implement a handicap system, as in golf, where weaker or younger batsmen start their innings with their scores already at 20 or 30. While mediocre bowlers have figures of three overs for 18 runs and two wickets (five extras) before they bowl their first ball.

The ICC could also place an upper limit on scores possible in an ODI or Twenty20. Or, if that appears too restrictive, implement a conversion factor. So an innings of 125 for Pakistan against Sri Lanka in the World Cup is equal to 50 runs for a 13-year-old, and 85 runs for 19-year-old. (Unless the innings was itself played by a 15- or 16-year-old Pakistani youngster.)

We have to figure out a way of making the current fearsome scenario more accessible for the common man.

It is simply unreasonable to expect only players of the quality of Tendulkar and Kallis and Siddhartha Mallya to come up through the system. Let us also give a chance to the less talented amongst us. Please, Deepika.

Sidin Vadukut is the managing editor of Livemint.com. He blogs at Domain Maximus. His first novel, Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese, is out now

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Comments: 17 
Posted by   on (March 7, 2011, 23:52 GMT)

Much like most of your columns .. the humor is all Bishan Bedi .. ( or if you are Ireland) .. totally Yuvraj. ;) Good one Sidin!

Posted by maverick_ind on (March 5, 2011, 6:38 GMT)

hahaha... nice one mr vadukut -well below average, Boycott's Grandmother, and Associate Nation. -Tendulkar and Kallis and Siddhartha Mallya :)

Posted by sreespace on (March 5, 2011, 5:56 GMT)

Yes, it is indeed fearsome to foresee the plight of bowlers in subcontinents in cricket today. Moreover, let us accept the fact that in our country, we are more fascinated with batting. Majority of budding young cricketers want to pick up the bat first than the ball. But reading your article i dont find any logical prudence in introducing handicap system in this game (or in the domestic level) or in the score conversion systems. Times are changing so will the trends in it

Posted by syedahmed91 on (March 5, 2011, 4:46 GMT)

The way cricket is going right now... in 10-15 years we'll be left with only batting allrounders and genuine bowlers... especially fast bowlers will have insufficient value. Cricket has to be balanced in order to entertain thats why watching a team like India is very boring.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2011, 2:59 GMT)

It is simply unreasonable to expect only players of the quality of Tendulkar and Kallis and Siddhartha Mallya to come up through the system. Let us also give a chance to the less talented amongst us. Please, Deepika.

Lol at Sid Mallya and the deepika comment :D

Posted by   on (March 4, 2011, 21:09 GMT)

OK Sir, I do not agree or understand your point with "89 ball technically good 115 runs". Its not valid in today's game. Imagine 2 batsman doing that and 1 scoring 60 off 70 , your total score is 238 runs ? Good luck with that quality batting :) ... I do understand where you are coming from but you have to understand that its about money and not the technically correct cricket that especially Indian people are worried about. Having said that not all Indian batsmen are technically very correct. I mean look at Sehwag's footwork and Raina + Yousuf handling short balls but inspite of that they are totally match winners why ?? Think about that instead of crying. May be you need to only watch Test Cricket and not T20 or one day cricket. And You still like the old days when you scored double centuries with your brother. But I guess its time to move on instead of keep crying over what is gone, one day cricket will not revert back to days when 250 was a winning score :)

Posted by xylo on (March 4, 2011, 20:00 GMT)

Wow... you reserved your sucker punch for the last paragraph!! On a serious note, one other thing with this recent scoring trend is that nobody will ever want to become a bowler.

Posted by gladtobehere81 on (March 4, 2011, 16:56 GMT)

@JigneshPatel_007, I was doing exactly the same analysis, after a Tie with England and here is what I got about harbhajan - last 3 wickets haul was taken in Mar10 last to last 3 wickets haul was taken in Mar 09 Last 5 wickets haul was taken in Sep 09 REALLY, and he still gets selected over and over again. Whats the basis. Poor selection goes on and on. Piyush Chawala...didnt get oppurtunity for 2 years and then he suddenly gets picked for world cup. REALLY! Fast bowling attack of Munaf(useless without speed), Sreeshanth(I hate this guy), Nehra (always unfit)

Posted by harry010787 on (March 4, 2011, 11:33 GMT)

Awesome ending to an awesome article :D

Posted by indianzen on (March 4, 2011, 11:13 GMT)

Good one Sidin, I knew 2-3 of my fellow IT colleagues, who are really very good at cricket, but unwilling to take up Sports as their main stream.

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Sidin Vadukut
Sidin Vadukut has been writing extensively about cricket since he started writing this column for ESPNcricinfo. He comes from a family of footballers, who all nurture virulent hate for cricket in general and Basit Ali in particular. Vadukut is the author of the Dork trilogy of office-culture humour novels. By day he is a columnist and editor with business daily Mint. At night, depending on when he gets off work, he goes home or fights crime. His favourite cricketer is Saeed Anwar. By which he means Sachin Tendulkar. Jai Hind.

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Sidin VadukutClose
Sidin Vadukut has been writing extensively about cricket since he started writing this column for ESPNcricinfo. He comes from a family of footballers, who all nurture virulent hate for cricket in general and Basit Ali in particular. Vadukut is the author of the Dork trilogy of office-culture humour novels. By day he is a columnist and editor with business daily Mint. At night, depending on when he gets off work, he goes home or fights crime. His favourite cricketer is Saeed Anwar. By which he means Sachin Tendulkar. Jai Hind.
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