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The hype and hoopla surrounding the Mumbai Cricket Association elections came to an end on January 19 with the NCP leader Sharad Pawar emerging victorious. All through the campaigning by the three camps, each panel made an issue on improving the level of junior cricket in Mumbai. However, like in most case, these promises have remained just promises.
The other topic that the candidates stressed upon was the coaching the junior teams. MCA joint secretary Ratnakar Shetty rightfully pointed out prior to the elections that there were many under qualified coaches in Mumbai.
The most amazing factor is that the coaches of the Mumbai Under-14, Under-16, Under-19 and the Under-22 teams have no common briefing. Each coach has his own ideas and plans that they implement and often the suggestions given by one coach are contradictory to the other. This adds to the confusion in the minds of the young players. A player at the Under-16 level has been asked by his coach to defend and play a long innings, whereas the same player in instructed to play attacking strokes at the Under-19 level. Bewildered, the player finishes neither here nor there and his career suffers.
In a recent match at the Wankhede stadium between Mumbai and Baroda Under-22 teams, the Mumbai lads adopted a suicidal approach. They were set a target of 44 runs in three overs to earn eight points. The task seemed relatively impossible. The Mumbai batsmen struggled in the first innings and were only saved by a gritty knock in the middle order that gave them the first innings points. Keeping this in mind, it seemed a highly improbable target. Yet the batsmen went after the runs and the result came as a shock, with the side losing six wickets for nine runs in three overs.
Mumbai had lost only five wickets in the first innings, whereas the Baroda team was bowled out twice. Mumbai's collapse in the second innings may not look harmful at this stage but if there is a tie in the points table, the wickets taken and given play a crucial part in the final standings. The ultimate price is paid by the team and the players. The critics fire the cricketers for not being able to win matches but hardly anyone remembers that the coach also plays a vital role in the team decisions and its performances.
There is no point blaming the players only. The coach too should be taken to task. But then what yardstick is adopted before appointing a coach? If the coach is in charge in the pavilion and plays an important role in all the strategies to be adopted by the team, then why is it that he is not pulled up for a shoddy showing? Critics have always hit out at the players for playing careless strokes, but for some reason, they turn a blind eye towards pinning the coach down on this point.
Passing a coaching exam alone does not mean a person is qualified to be a coach for a life time. They have to be given periodic tests to keep them updated on the current methods and innovative measures of coaching. Ratnakar Shetty admits that the "coaching systems in India are still the same as they were 30 years ago."
The coaches need to be updated on modern techniques and they too should move ahead with the times. Only then will they be in a position to groom the talent in a right way. Regular exams should be conducted to ensure that the coach is in touch with current events in the domestic circuit and also updates himself in terms of technique and managing skills.
Such is the haphazard state of coaches for various teams that at times the appointed coach and the players meet for the first time at the railway platform prior to their departure to another city for a match. The West Zone Under-19 team was assembled and sent to Pune to participate in a warm up game with the visiting England team. The coach Vilas Godbole told CricInfo that he was unhappy with the less time given for the preparations. He said it was unfair to the players as one day is not sufficient time to groom a team together. All the players come from different states and are very different individuals, so they should be given more time to understand each other and play as a team.
Even the India Under-19 coach Roger Binny was unhappy with the less time given for preparations prior to the first Under-19 'Test'. The selections were held at the Wankhede stadium with 30 boys in the camp with just one day for selection. He too was disappointed with the little time given to select the boys who came from all parts of the country.
It is an accepted fact that any player can have a bad day, which does not mean that he lacks class or talent. So judging a player on a bad day may ruin his career and deprive the nation of a prospective class player. The sooner a system needs to be worked out to streamline these grassroot issues, the better for the future of Indian cricket.