Monday, April 04, 2011

Getting the drive right in eight & nine year olds

Following on my previous posts (this and this) urging all of us to be more open and allow day-night first class cricket to happen:

I just came across a brilliant post from Michael Jeh on cricinfo's Different Strokes (reminds me of some delicious old days). That post was most impressive, not the least due to the fact that I have been spending some time of late with the kids playing cricket in my apartment complex and I have seen some of the things he mentioned in that blog happen right in front of my eyes.

Quoting a part of that blogpost that was most relevant:

Junior cricket, at my son's club anyway, is predominantly played in the V between midwicket and fine-leg. dominated by strong boys who can play the 'hoik' to every ball. Most bowlers at this age can barely get the ball to the other end without a few wides each over. A far cry indeed from the Azar Maidan in Mumbai where I recently watched a group of very young lads with impeccable batting techniques facing a bowler who bowled doosras on request! These Indian kids were probably not deemed "elite" and will probably never grace our tv screens but their rudimentary skills suggested that something (or somebody) has got to these youngsters at an early age and set them up with a framework that they can extend as their bodies grow stronger. Cameron Tradell was one of the few coaches who was able to get the message across to my son (and friend) that playing straight was a long-term goal that would outlast the temporary glory of scoring cheap runs exclusively through square leg. Try telling a seven year old that technique is more important than runs - this was the first time playing straight made sense because of the use of a unique bat that rewarded the boys for hitting the ball with a full face. It absolutely pinged off the sweet spot when they hit straight down the ground and all of a sudden, the hoik was yesterday's shot!

Ponting himself was a junior prodigy, brought up on a classical technique and clearly coached by someone who knew how to coach a kid properly. We are reminded today that soon he will no longer stride out to bat for Australia at number three, arguably our greatest ever in that crucial position. I don't think we'll ever see the likes of Ponting again in this country unless our junior cricket system can encourage kids who can bat for long periods and play straight. Not unless we can find ways to encourage coaches who can see the big picture and can find ways to communicate those simple techniques to young minds who cannot easily understand why a single to mid-on is less preferable to a boundary through square leg. That's the difference I see at the grassroots level between the Asian countries and Australia at a very young age.

I let Michael know that he need not judge 'Asian countries' by his good experience of enriched youth cricket at Azad Maidan, amongst the cricket-elitest places in cricket-elite Mumbai. That would be as accurate an assessment as estimating rhinoceros count in the world by taking rhinos per square mile in Kaziranga and multiplying that by surface area of the earth. That 2nd para in the above quote from Michael's blogpost could well be about any of Tendulkar / Dravid / Laxman / Gavaskar / Viswanath instead of Ponting, and the country India instead of Australia.

Check my comments below that blogpost (comments dated 4th April), sharing my thoughts on the subject and recent experiences of being a 'very senior' player amongst 8-9 year olds. If you enjoyed Michael's post, chances are you may like my comments too.

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