Azharuddin: Competitive cricket’s good for youngsters
Former Indian captain visits Dubai-based academy
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