Azharud­din: Com­pet­i­tive cricket’s good for young­sters

For­mer In­dian cap­tain vis­its Dubai-based acad­emy

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT - By Durgesh Hari­das @the­gouyalle

W hen Pranav Dhanawande of Mumbai’s KC Gandhi school made a mind-bog­gling 1,009 not out in 323 balls in a sin­gle in­nings in Jan­uary, the who’s who of cricket – in­clud­ing Sachin Ten­dulkar – reached out to con­grat­u­late the 15-year old.

Age group and school cricket has come a long way since the 1990s and even the 2000s. The range of cat­e­gories and tour­na­ments has en­sured ta­lent is spot­ted and recog­nised right from an early age.

The same is hap­pen­ing here in the UAE with the launch of new cricket acad­e­mies and schools pro­grammes.

One such ini­tia­tive is Kricket’s Spero Acad­emy, which caters for play­ers aged six to 19-years-old at its Al Nasr Leisure­land base in Dubai.

Cel­e­brat­ing its first an­niver­sary last week, Kricket’s Spero Acad­emy wel­comed for­mer In­dia cap­tain Mo­hammed Azharud­din, who was in the UAE to give one-on-one ses­sions to the young­sters.

When asked about in­tro­duc­ing cricket at such a young age, Azharud­din said: “When we used to play there was only un­der-19 and un­der-22 [age groups].

“There is lot of com­pe­ti­tion for lesser age groups. There may be play­ers who are bet­ter than you in U17 or U19 but the recog­ni­tion was very slow.

“It is very en­cour­ag­ing to see U12, U14 and U16 tour­na­ments nowa­days.”

He be­lieves it is the right step for­ward in iden­ti­fy­ing ta­lent and both for teams and in­di­vid­u­als.

Spero boasts of In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC), Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia (BCCI) and Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cer­ti­fied coaches, many of whom are for­mer In­dian do­mes­tic crick­eters. Also in the coach­ing ranks is ex-UAE player Prashant Braggs.

Hav­ing played through the tran­si­tion era of cricket where the one-day for­mat came of age, Azhar ac­knowl­edges that Twenty20 is the crowd-puller but Test cricket can never be re­placed or pushed out of the pic­ture.

Azhar added: “Fine, T20 and 50over games are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar but Test cricket will have its place, I don’t think [Test cricket] it will ever die out.

“Most of the se­ries we hardly see a Test match drawn, even in a five­match se­ries. Kids can­not play long games straight away, it is good to get them started with the shorter for­mats and then slowly make them play two and three-day games.”

AL­WAYS A HIT: Kids were more than happy to be coached by the leg­end

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