It was the same system which, during its rather influential existence from 2002 to 2006, brought cricketers such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla and R.P. Singh from obscurity to centre-stage.
Although, he had been playing first class cricket for four years, Dhoni’s precocious big-hitting prowess remained largely unknown before he was spotted by TRDOs Raju Mukerjee and Prakash Chandra Podar in 2004; the man from Ranchi was nearly 24 then. Before the end of the year, Dhoni had made his ODI debut in Bangladesh and the rest is history.
Handpicked for their ability to assess a cricketer, the TRDOs could reach out to the districts, away from the established centres.
Thus players from lesser cricketing States, who would otherwise be ignored at the expense of those from the dominant teams of the zone, received precious openings.
The TRDO wing gave India a new generation of cricketers before match-referees were asked by the Board to double up as talent spotters. And the National Cricket Academy (NCA), which acted in tandem with TRDOs in grooming talent, gradually turned into an injury rehabilitation centre. The TRDOs were no longer on the prowl.
Talking to The Hindu, Dilip Vengsarkar, the then TRDO chairman, said, “Talent has to be recognised and given the opportunity at the right time. You should believe in someone who is talented, have the courage and the conviction to give the player a chance.”
It took Vengsarkar just a few minutes and a handful of overs to be convinced about a raw and young Ishant’s potential. Soon, he put the fast bowler on course for bigger things.
Vengsarkar said, “Almost 90 per cent of players from that time came through the TRDO system. The NCA and the zonal academies played a crucial role.” Critically, the TRDO method found a way past politics and fixed mind-sets.
The relationship between the NCA and TRDO wing was important. Here, Vengsarkar and the then NCA director Brijesh Patel worked in unison.
Patel, now secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), told this newspaper, “A player could have got a hundred with four lives. Another cricketer might have scored 40-odd on a really bad wicket.
“So statistics do not give you the complete picture. If we have someone watching these matches, he can provide a more accurate account of a cricketer’s ability. This is where the TRDO wing was helpful.”
The former India batsman said, “Dilip (Vengsarkar) and I selected the TRDO for each State. They would grade the cricketers on different attributes in their report to us.
“These cricketers practised and underwent training at the NCA. Dilip would sit with the junior selection panels during meetings to give his inputs. He would also travel with the teams. The system worked.”
Former India cricketers with an eye for talent such as Ashok Mankad, Parthasarathy Sharma and Bharath Reddy were among the TRDOs.
Vision and statistics
Indeed, the TRDOs placed vision for the game alongside statistics. The concept was to capture the degree of talent in each player through TRDOs and analyse the data at the NCA. Any player who secured more than 85 per cent was graded in ‘A’ category and the system operated to filter out biases.
The system was the brainchild of writer, mentor and talent spotter Makarand Waingankar.
He said, “In my first year as consultant for the Karnataka State Cricket Association in 2001, we introduced the TRDO system. It was a big success as boys from various districts began to make an impact in selection trial matches.
“When the then president of BCCI, Jagmohan Dalmiya, observed this during his visit to Bengaluru, he announced the TRDO wing the very next day with Vengsarkar as its chairman. Vengsarkar did a commendable job.”
Indications are that the TRDO wing will be back in business.
Keywords: TRDO, Talent Resource Development Officer, National Cricket Academy