Javagal Srinath, former India fast bowler, believes young cricketers should play for the love of the game, and not focus as much on getting selected in various age-group teams. Srinath was speaking, along with former India captain Rahul Dravid, at a discussion on club cricket as part of the Karnataka State Cricket Association's (KSCA) platinum jubilee celebrations.
Srinath, currently the KSCA secretary, spoke fondly of his time in club cricket, playing for Sunny Side Club in Mysore. "If I missed one session of practice, I was very hard on myself. I resolved to stick to the club. The loyalty factor was very high, and with that loyalty I gave a lot. I cherished every second and gained a lot in terms of dedication and commitment."
His resolve, however, was shaken when he couldn't crack the Karnataka Under-15 squad. "I remember coming here to Bangalore in 1985 or so for an U-15 trial and not being picked in the side. I went back to Mysore and refused to bat or bowl. My coach told me not to come back for training again: 'You are here to play this game and develop a sporting habit. That is more important to me.' This changed my mindset towards selection and put less pressure on me to perform."
Srinath's notion proved a recurring theme throughout the talk as Dravid weighed in. "What are the aspirations of the player?" Dravid said. "Is it only to get selected into the state U-19 team? Only fifteen boys get selected, so there will be a lot of young, disappointed kids, and people will start giving up the game. There is a huge amount of pressure from schools and parents. You have to play it for the enjoyment factor; making friends, getting physically fit, and learning about life through sport."
Dravid spoke of his experiences growing up. "One of my great memories was playing with the likes of Roger Binny, Carlton Saldhana and Sadanand Viswanath. To play against GR Viswanath, who was still playing for State Bank of India and Raghuram Bhatt on a matting wicket, you knew these were great cricketers. It was a great opportunity for a 16-year-old boy to learn and play with these great cricketers."
Dravid also mentioned that long train journeys with the likes of Viswanath and Binny contributed a lot to the development of him and Srinath as players, as it allowed them special insight and access to their wealth of knowledge. These journeys also helped forge a special bond between the players, he said, one which ultimately transcended into the Indian team, which at the time boasted a significant contingent of Karnataka players.
One other point, which was touched upon by each member of the panel, which included N Doraiswamy, club secretary of Friends Union Cricket Club, and Dr S Krishnamurthy, former administrator, was the growing need for facilities and open spaces for cricket to continue to thrive in and around Bangalore. With the advent of urban sprawl and the coinciding population boom, commute times have lengthened and the competition for club spaces have increased. The KSCA has attempted to rectify this to an extent with the introduction of their summer coaching camps, which allow aspiring cricketers access to qualified coaches and a robust infrastructure. Private academies have also shot up, but the costs may prove a deterrent to impoverished players.