Wanted: Revival of school cricket

SRINAGAR: School cricket that forms the fulcrum of producing top notch cricketers in almost all major cricketing nations continues to provide a timid picture in Jammu and Kashmir. Cricketing power houses like England and Sri Lanka have strong base as far as their school cricket is concerned with professional coaches and trainers manning the early growth of aspiring cricketers.

The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mahela Jayawerdena and Arvinda De Silva have been all products of competitive school cricket. 

While school cricket is decent enough in various states of India to provide kids with know-how of the sport at an early age, Jammu and Kashmir lags far behind which has ultimately stopped supply of talent to top flight cricket.

For keen observers, the weakened school cricket could be put to poor infrastructure, lack of keenness in the schools’ managements to hire professional coaches and trainers and parents’ pressure that pegs back kids to take part in cricket tournaments early in the piece. 

Mubashir Hassan, the J&K U-19 coach- reckons a strong school cricket structure means a strong talent pool.

“School cricket is the most vital cog in aspiring cricketers’ career. It is in school cricket he picks up the bowling action or batting stance that remains with him forever. At senior level one can’t teach players the basics of the sport. They inculcate them at a young age,” Hassan told Kashmir Observer.

Hassan feels school cricket was lagging behind because stake holders are least bothered to set the record straight.

“We have a full fledged department (Youth Services and Sports) to run sports activities in the state, but they aren’t doing the work that is expected of them. There are hardly out and out cricket coaches in schools. Even top private institutions are bereft of cricket coaches despite the facts students showing keenness to improve their skill level. Most of the teachers entrusted with the job of conducting cricket activities are BPeds or MPeds as we don’t have proper cricket coaches here,” he says.

Hassan questions the format of inter-school tournaments.

“Most of the inter-school cricket tournaments are played on knockout basis which means if a talented player has an off-day and his team loses he won’t be able to showcase his potential. So we need to conduct tournaments in a way that young kids show more than one chance to exhibit their skills,” he says.

Schools-that charge fat tuitions fees- can easily hire former cricketers to teach the skills and nuances of the game to the kids, but most of them aren’t ready to shell out the bucks.  

There is hardly any school in the state that is laced with a proper ground.

“We don’t have proper grounds in the schools. Even if schools have grounds, kids are made to play on matting wickets. Turf wickets are a dream in this part of the world,” says Hassan. 

Former J&K off-spinner and ace broadcaster Humayoun Qaiser says that school cricket was in good shape during his playing days, but dwindled over the years not to rise again. 

“School cricket was flourishing here till 1990 then it died never to rise again. Since then we have not been able to conduct inter school tournaments or organize any coaching camps for schools. It met same fate as college cricket,” says Qaiser. 

He likens school cricket to the backbone of state cricket. 

“Organized school cricket is the backbone of any state. It is the feeding cadre for senior cricket. It is at this level that players pick nuances of game which remain with them always. Therefore proper guidance and competitive cricket at school level is a must,” he says.

As of now, school cricket continues to be lagging behind and it would need professionalism and strong will from stake-holders to give it a right direction and make it breeding ground for future stars. 

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