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Red Bull Campus Cricket - nursery to the stars of tomorrow

"The tournament is very close to my heart because that is where I think I have revived myself and my cricket," says KL Rahul

Saurabh Somani
Rizvi College Mumbai, the women's Red Bull Campus Cricket champions in 2021, celebrate their triumph

Rizvi College, Mumbai, the India national women's Red Bull Campus Cricket champions in 2021, celebrate their triumph  •  Red Bull Campus Cricket

College and university cricket is where the stars of tomorrow take their first steps. And when you have a high-intensity, highly prestigious event that brings the best of young cricketers together, it creates a compelling product. That's what the Red Bull Campus Cricket tournament is, which ESPNcricinfo will cover.
It's a one-of-a-kind college T20 tournament because its scope is international, the prestige riding on it is high, and therefore it provides one of the keenest early indicators of which youngsters have the ticker to go with the talent, which ones can take the pressure that a high-profile event brings, and which ones show the most promise for making the next step. It's the only global platform for university and college cricket. Teams compete in national tournaments around the globe and the winners are given the chance to represent their country and compete in the Red Bull Campus Cricket World Final.
Small wonder then, that an IPL franchise like Rajasthan Royals also keeps a close eye on it to scout talent. There is no bigger stamp of authenticity and approval than a franchise from the biggest, brightest and most competitive T20 league in the world seeing value in what you do.
In its 11th year now, Red Bull Campus Cricket has had several prominent cricketers taking part in it when they were young. That includes KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Niroshan Dickwella and Chirag Suri. In the 2013 edition, Rahul was the top-scorer in Red Bull Campus Cricket.
"Red Bull Campus Cricket is very close to my heart because that is where I think I have revived myself and my cricket," Rahul said. "I remember I had just come out of an injury and was returning to cricket after three-four months. It was Red Bull Campus Cricket at that time that got me back in shape and through this tournament I have found my way up."
Rahul, who has already led India in Test cricket and is one of the rare batters equally effective in all formats, had his first association with Red Bull when he represented Jain University, Bengaluru, at the 2013 Red Bull Campus Cricket tournament. Later, he signed on as a Red Bull athlete and has loved the association ever since.
Rahul isn't the only prominent Indian player who has benefitted from Red Bull Campus Cricket. The likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shahrukh Khan, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Anukul Roy, Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur, Karun Nair and Manan Vohra have all been part of the tournament too, in their formative years.
"Red Bull Campus Cricket gives exposure and opportunities for aspiring cricketers to enhance their skills," Javagal Srinath, the former India fast bowler who is now technical director of Red Bull Campus Cricket, said. "Many youngsters tend to drop out of colleges in order to pursue their dreams in the world of cricket but this tournament helps to improve their game without comprising on academics. Red Bull Campus Cricket is a step in the direction of providing cricket at the college level a good lift and recognition.
"And it is not just about having a tournament that gives an opportunity to university-level players, it is also about creating a pathway to a bigger and better stage. The players have opportunities to get trials at the IPL franchises based on their performance here. In fact, Red Bull's partnership with Rajasthan Royals allows the franchise to take a look at the tournament to spot the next KL Rahul or Ruturaj Gaikwad."
Red Bull Campus Cricket has continued to grow to that end, with a women's edition inaugurated last year, by Smriti Mandhana, one of India's best-ever women cricketers. This year, some of the players who take part in the women's edition will also get the priceless opportunity to interact with Mandhana.
And already, Ayushi Soni, who participated in the tournament last year, has made her debut for India Women in T20Is. How a tournament like Red Bull Campus Cricket helps aid the transition of players from youth cricket to international cricket is illustrated by Soni.
In essence, Red Bull Campus Cricket is a launchpad towards discovering the best cricketing talent at the grassroots level, and helping to maximise the potential of the stars of tomorrow.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo