Winds of welcome change seem to be blowing through the corridors of the BCCI. For a Board that is not known to encourage radical changes, the appointment of the amiable, but tough, former India captain Rahul Dravid to head the India U-19 and India ‘A’ teams is a master stroke. Also, requesting Ravi Shastri to continue as the director of the Indian team while appointing Dravid to streamline the second tier will steer the ship in the right direction.
India ‘A’ tours were not well planned for a long period and it seems to have been corrected only in the last two years. The appointment of someone of Dravid’s stature to guide young talent is a significant move forward in that direction.
Dravid, who himself fought through the ranks of junior and India ‘A’ cricket, is well aware of the demands, lures and pitfalls before the young cricketers, both within the sport as well its peripheries.
Dravid surely knows that his primary mandate is to unearth a future India player at 19 years of age, and to ensure that that youngster evolves into a fine player. He will definitely receive help from the planned revival of the Talent Resources Development Wing (TRDW) in this regard. It was an initiative that truly proved to bring about the much needed leaps in the selection processes, and successfully so.
With that, the foundation seems to have been laid for everyone to do their job and talent to flourish, or has it? The current process of selection is a bit cumbersome.
Around 800 matches are played during a season. At the moment five junior selectors are expected to watch and assess all under-19 matches. However, it seems a wasteful exercise.
The insights they may glean from this task are not communicated to the senior selection committee as the two do not co-ordinate. Besides it does not seem to have struck anyone that it may be impossible for a total of just 10 selectors to effectively watch and assess about 800 matches in a season.
When the TRDO system was first launched in the 2002-03 season, top talent like M.S. Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and others were groomed at the NCA. The India ‘A’ team toured Kenya, and Zimbabwe in July 2004. Those who did well on the tours were fast tracked into the Indian team.
Hence, the planning of matches, and tournaments, needs to be streamlined so that Dravid, his team, and TRDOs can be efficient and productive.
Apart from that we have to understand and the Board has to know that this new turn the BCCI has taken will bear fruit only in a cumulative manner over time. Once talent is recognised by clearing the muddles of selection, grooming them is the next challenge. For that to happen there has to be a meeting with the director of the NCA in order to co-ordinate with its coaches and trainers to prepare the boys; as was the case the last time TRDW operated successfully.
Dravid will have to plan meticulously and the BCCI should ensure that he gets all the assistance he asks for. He will need to build a team of experts to aid him.
He will obviously choose those in whose abilities he has confidence. In case he wants to study the functioning of other academies in England, Australia, or South Africa, provisions may be made for that too.
It will take a year to have the High Performance Centre ready, but the process has to begin.
Guiding young talent in the sport in the 21st century does not only entail guiding their talent within the sport, but also grooming them to steer away from the bumps around it. However, it is up to the Board and the personnel to keep channels of communication open and ensure that this bold new phase of decision making is meaningful to young players, and Indian cricket as a whole.
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