Grassroots development & it’s scrutiny in Nepali cricket

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Cricket has been seeing its transformation drastically in the recent period. The major T20 leagues and their impacts have been the perks of modern cricket development around the world. But there is something constant in the way cricket is being played in white uniform although the balls have been changed from red color to pink.

The best part above all is the way the longest format of the game is still the aim of most of the countries and they compete in various divisions to change their status into The Test status.

Likewise, English is a commonly used language in most of the country where cricket is played. English vocabulary is a tough art to get used to especially for all those non-English speaking groups of people living in the world. Similarly heavy use of light English words, at the right place to prove our academic level and position or class we possess in our day to day life is a part of our hobby residing in the central part of Nepal.

Continuing that trend, I began to search the most commonly used English words on Google and got some impressive words that are mostly used by the heads of the Cricket Association Of Nepal frequently. All those 2 words caught my eyesight in awe as all of us, once in a while in an interview or conversation with the governing body officials might have come across, can you guess all of the 2 magical words?

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These are not cheap words, no, not at all! These are not easy words rather words that could change the fate and status of Nepali cricket and pull our cricketing drawbacks into a structure. I hope you got it now, if not I would encrypt them boldly and together,” GRASSROOTS DEVELOPMENT”.

If these words mentioned above inside inverted commas are taken into account seriously then the first thing those words demand is to get used to the actual meaning and definition of the most frequent words. I’m just a graduate and maybe can’t define it that well. So I found a reliable source in www.iaf.gov and this is what I found-:

Most of the highly qualified new entrants in the good and strong panel under construction can easily get into the lines of the definitions provided by the Inter American Foundation. For me, the last line of the closing paragraph of it is an investment in making organizations stronger and more representative made it loud and clear of how it must be used.

Let us make a big picture out of these couple of beautiful words. Let’s find the root of this grass that generally has served as the foundation for any country to gain supreme status in cricket all around the world. Because we belong to the SAARC country, I want to present an example of how Sri Lanka and Bangladesh cricket have accepted these words in their working mode of daily life to impact the lives of individual talents around their individual territory.

So, I begin this swift journey which wasn’t that swift when the process started for Bangladesh Cricket. The younger of the two nations presented above as a perfect example of how the correct process helps a team to develop into the path of being transformed as a respected team among the bigger teams of world cricket. As Md. Isam mentioned in his beautifully crafted article in www.cricinfo.com in 2017, how Bangladesh patiently followed the process for 15 years to be defined as a respected International side of the world cricket.

The question arises as to what was the process and how long ago the foundations of the process were laid in Bangladesh? The answer is way before it got the supreme Test status in 2000. It was done in the 80’s more precisely from 1983 to 1987 when Kamal Ziaul Islam, KZ then board president acted as the driving force behind the school tournament that for so long served as a feeder system to clubs and national team as mentioned beautifully by Isam.

It might sound a little old-fashioned to us reading all of this from Nepal as we are planning to change the status of individual players through our cricket governing body. We are planning to host a mega event, ouch it hurts as we are planning to outsource an individual event that too a T20 event as the only official T20 of the country.

Here in Nepal, we think that a short format cricket which highlights the already highlighted individual can change the lives of many individuals and serve as a feeder to our vacant squad which is lacking to find a replacement of a medium pacer all-rounder and wicket-keeping batsmen in the national team itself in every format. That’s our decade long plan to begin the proceedings.

Let’s move on to the structural foundation that was laid by KZ for the gradual development of Bangladesh cricket. As Isam writes clearly and boldly that Ziaul Islam’s company Nirman Constructions bankrolled the tournament for 14 seasons and set the tone for schoolboys to become future cricketers. In a span of 14 years, Nirman grew from 22 schools to 410 schools. Now that’s what we call a vision to built a structure as a feeder to the national cricket team in Bangladesh in the past.

In the past decade, 1000 schools from all over Bangladesh participated in the Nirman League. Not to anyone’s surprise, Nirman produced the gem of cricketers and leaders like Habibul Bashar, Khaled Masood, and Javed Omar who served Bangladesh cricket to their fullest in the tough period of development. That’s how you create an opportunity out of nothing and create a base that holds a long term foundation for the future of budding generation in cricket.

On contrary, Nepal cricket stride a huge step after it played that T20 world cup as well as gained the ODI status without a proper domestic structure. CAN, the governing body of cricket in Nepal was suspended in April 2016 and was reinstated in October 2019. So, a parentless cricketing journey was taken care of by private leagues and cricket academies existing in the country. White ball cricket attracted corporate houses and the flamboyant cricketing structure was embedded in the nation. Those leagues and matches were the need of time to carry cricketing activities in Nepal.

But now when the situation demands forming a complete structure right from junior levels that includes school cricket, club cricket, and college cricket to cricket in districts and provinces that too with red balls and white dress under the strict supervision of the governing body, CAN is actually selling dreams of changing lives of Nepalese cricketers by including them in an outsourced T20 league.

The focus on white-ball cricket must be made secondary as red-ball cricket the ultimate goal of the nation. Nepal has lacked batsmen scoring freely whenever Nepal plays outside our home conditions, very few batsmen score run freely and that isn’t magic. Nepalese batsmen bats in one type of pitch in the Tribhuwan International cricket ground which according to Dutch superstar batsmen Ryan Ten Doeschate in the Everest Premier League (EPL) 2019 to a bunch of young batsmen in Nepal was, This isn’t a cricket pitch but a trap made for spinners to haunt your wicket”. Hence, he told them not to be frustrated in such pitches for not scoring runs.

Nepal cricket must focus on making batsmen friendly pitches where batsmen can play the ball on the rise for restoring the lost confidence of batsmen ship which has to do everything with runs behind his back. Similarly, we must know to stay longer in the 22 yards with less amount of dot balls in every form of the game we play. It can only be made possible with lots of day games and 3-day tournaments on the Nepalese cricketing calendar for a decade at least from today for both men and women cricket teams. For that, a real grassroots development is a need of the hour for Nepali cricket.

Let’s jump once again into the structure followed by Bangladesh cricket today after a long term investment of the past starting to provide ROI to Bangladesh cricket. Currently, Bangladesh cricket is the prime example of how system can bring positive changes in sports if serve in the right way could be witnessed and felt.

Bangladesh Cricket board’s development committee and a robust talent scout synchronize at the same place to bring the local talent with potential, mindset, and energy from various districts of Bangladesh. Isam described that out of 13 test debutants in 2 years (2015-2017) only a single player was from the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Image: ICC

The steps taken by Bangladesh cricket board as development program expansion is as shown in the image:-

The ongoing system has opened the door of opportunities to small towns boys like Mustafizzur Rehman who came through tough and minute selection panel. The story of cricketers like Fizz, Mehidy Hasan and Soumya Sarkar is a clear example of local coaches in Bangladesh have realized the need of local talents in the highest level game.

The grassroots development is the seed for the growth of Bangladesh cricket to the current level of confidence. The development program and recruit from the scout have done wonders for the smaller cities and suburbs of Bangladesh that are getting more and more viewers and followers of cricket too.

Sri Lanka has opted for a unique track as articulated by Nausadh Amit in www.islandcricket.lk in January 2017 that Srilanka School Cricket Association (SLSCA) unanimously decided a meeting to scrap the inter-school T20 tournament as they have realized that the shortest format doesn’t support the basics of the game in any way.

When you compare that statement to the words spoken by the governing body heads of Nepal cricket recently, we can already speculate on what paths are they choosing for budding generations of cricket players across Nepal.

Srilanka has always focused on the development of cricketing structure right from the school level so have always found themselves competitive at the highest level. The entire cricket is dependent on how school shapes their students ready for the cricketing battle at an early age.

The rise of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are the primary examples of how cricket was at its strength at the grassroots level accounting school and college cricket. It was all due to the joint effort of local bodies in Sri Lanka that served as a backbone for gaining Test status way back in 1981. Still, for so many years before that triumph in the 1996 World cup, Cricket wasn’t a poor child’s dream.

The world cup boost helped the grassroots development with new structures and leagues thrown out at the base level in the backyard of school cricket. The cricket leagues were made part of the school curriculum and the busy cricketing calender yielded batsmen like Sanath Jayasuriya who changed the fate of Sri Lankan cricket on his own along with Romesh Kaluwitharana.

The pair of Jayasuriya and Kalu showed the world how to build a destructive partnership in the field restrictions allowing only 2 players outside the circle for the 15 overs of ODI matches in the ’90s. This was possible as the players of that era came out of a highly competitive school cricket structure playing red-ball cricket way too often.

Image: cricket.com.au

The structure that is followed all over Srilanka by schools can be described in an image as follows:-

The case studies of Bangladesh cricket and Sri lanka cricket takes us to the common point of planning and execution from the grassroots level for development at the highest level in the cricketing arena.

It is true that Bangladesh has BPL and Sri Lanka now owns LPL but they have done it only after giving a framework to their domestic circuit investing their time, minds,and money to boost their grassroots development from an early age to an individual who dreams of making a career out of cricket.

Nepal cricket which has already gone through glories of the initial phase and has so much potential needs proper action at the highest level. Rather than millennium projects and ambitious dreams of cricket stadiums all over the nation, players need to come out of the ranks via proper domestic structures right from the school levels to National Cricket Academy where they will enhance the arts, skills and confidence required to be a tough International cricketer.

More pitches, grounds, and proper structure can play the sparkling role which is the most needed boost to Nepal’s cricketing worries. The transition is nearby and the pools of players are limited which is a dangerous sign for cricket in Nepal, if we want cricket to be where it deserves to be selling huge dreams from the highest level must be stopped, and investing in common dreams must be started otherwise like many sports in Nepal cricket will be part of history whose golden colors would fade away with time. Nepal cricket needs action in the right direction and broad minds who believe in doing things in Nepal for the people of Nepal.

The scrutiny brings the irony that rather than implementing, people are made to believe that teams get structure only after winning at the highest level but the truth is glory is defined to take place when things are made right at the decision-making levels and their implementation at the basic level.

Nepal cricket needs more red-ball cricket and long formats to achieve the Test status that will change the lives of people who began their career with a dream to play the highest level of cricket. The board and the authorities must move in the direction that Bangladesh and Sri Lanka did some 15 years prior to gaining the respective Test status if Nepal wants to prosper their way through cricket otherwise the short term goals will haunt Nepal cricket and take back to the days which will bring more darkness to the country and people of Nepal.

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