Cricket is a religion in India, they say. And quite rightly so. After all, in which country can you find a billion followers following a single sport?
It was Kapil Dev who first realized the dreams of the masses by lifting the iconic 1983 World Cup in the country that had ruled them for over two centuries, before them. From being a post-colonial sport to a national obsession, Cricket has really gone through a lot. It is one of the very few things, along with Bollywood and Hindi, that ties the country together. But not all the cricketers get the chances they deserve. Why exactly do so many of these players end up with the same fate?
Lack of Opportunity
Lack of opportunity is the single most important reason why upcoming players fail to get to at least First Class cricket in India. Cricket is the single sport that you can assuredly spot in every nook and corner of any Indian state. Quite naturally, India has a huge amount of cricketing talent, considering its following and the sheer size of the nation.
But too much of anything is bad. The extensive following of the sport means that more youngsters take up cricket as a career option. As a result, an intense saturation happens with scarce opportunity in comparison. This results in some hidden gems in the form of highly talented individuals remain in obscurity.
Domestic Cricket and a Crooked Selection Process
Domestic cricket is considered as a strength as well as a weakness of Indian cricket. Strength, because this is the sole platform that gives the youngsters with skills to display their talent and for the selectors.
However, with so many teams competing against each other, it becomes difficult for the organization to exercise quality control. This may be in terms of pitch quality, streamlined revenue sourcing, poorly maintained facilities among others. Also, with so many matches taking place, not all of those come under the national selector’s watch. The chances of anyone at least hear about you depends on the team you feature in, the league in which your team features in and more importantly, the extent it reaches.
For example, Mumbai has been for long considered a source for producing quality batting talent, Saurashtra for all-rounders and South Indian teams for spinners. And quite naturally, these players in the respective department and sides already have a sweet spot among the selector’s hearts.
Another crooked factor in selecting upcoming players is of selecting them based solely on numbers. Agreed, numbers are an important way quantifying a player’s performances. But then, the conditions in which an impressive figure has been achieved have to be considered. A batsman who has hit a half-century on a turning pitch against a tougher opposition may be far better than a player who has scored a century against a minor opposition. However, these rudimentary points are ignored in most of the cases.
Bad infrastructure is also an important reason for the wastage of Indian talent. Even though quantitatively, stadiums are springing up in Indian cities. But qualitatively, few match the foreign standards, especially those in Australia and England.
Moreover, most of the pitches are curated to be turning and uneven to facilitate spin bowlers. Even though this practice helps in nurturing spin talent, it severely affects the fast-bowlers. After all, we have produced world-class spinners like Anil Kumble, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, and the list goes on. But what about fast-bowlers?
This also means that the national team struggles in the international conditions. Having not faced too many bouncers and swing deliveries mean Indian batsmen struggle in England and South Africa along with spinners who have no clue of how to turn the ball on a flat pitch.
This is a problem that is prevalent not only in cricket but other sports as well. The story of how a talented player taking up engineering or other career paths due to lack of economic backing is cliched in India. There are very few who are able to completely focus on their game without having to take care of the finances. Many other times, parents abstain from supporting their children in the sport due to high competition or lack of career options going forward.