Tucked away on the outskirts of Bengaluru, far from the city’s hustle and bustle, the sprawling expanse of open ground looks a pretty sight today. From being really ragged and unkempt, the up and coming stadium, with a carefully manicured turf wicket and green outfield, overlooks vestiges of uneven cracks that make an appearance in the adjacent pitches.
This picturesque ground does not belong to any state association or the BCCI, but is a testament to the vision and passion of Mr. Subramanian along with Mr. Vijay Madyalkar and Mr. Nasiruddin — the brains behind Just Cricket Academy, one of Bengaluru’s finest cricket-coaching centres.
The process of developing skills as a cricketer is as much work inside the field as it is engaging your mind in picking the nitty-gritty, by learning from those who can impart that knowledge firsthand. The role of a coach at the highest level may be limited to some extent, understated even, but its value in the formative years of a batsman or a bowler cannot be discounted.
At Just Cricket Academy, which turned five recently, the aim is to not only give a conducive environment for training but also try and maximize the potential in every youngster by ‘grooming him/her into a well-bred professional cricketer’.
For Mr. Nasiruddin, chief coach and mentor at Just Cricket, the idea to build the academy stemmed from lack of accessibility. He reflects: “When we used to play cricket, we couldn’t get our hands on such first-class infrastructure and modern training. What happens usually is a state or a national level cricketer has access to high-end amenities, and the common man lags behind. The plan was to come up with a place which will have all the indoor facilities, turf wickets, gym and other prerequisites for all players to come and practise on a daily basis.”
Mr. Madyalkar, another chief coach at the academy, concurs: “The intention was to give cricketers between the age of 6 and 25 a platform to nurture their talent.”
While many may feel that marketing a cricket academy in a country obsessed with the game will be a walk in the park, the challenge could be at once baffling and exciting. They say, there is nothing like word-of-mouth publicity, and that is what seems to be working wonders for the academy at the moment.
Mr. Madyalkar says: Our infrastructure and diligent coaching are the best marketing tools. Indian batsmen KL Rahul and Manish Pandey sometimes come here and have a hit in the nets during their downtime. That helps in spreading the word.”
The academy has a gymnasium, a hostel for outstation trainees and an indoor facility for practice during the monsoons. It comprises seven turf wickets, four cemented pitches, one matting and four astro –turf wickets.
In the meantime, at the nets, Karnataka U-25 batsman, Abdul Majid is working up a sweat perfecting his forward defence against spin and pace bowling. Majid, who has been with the academy since its inception, rates it as one of the best in the country. The best part, Majid says, is that ‘you can come here any time of the day and have a knock. The coaches work round the clock to help a player with the basics of the game.’
Majid started his cricketing career in Mysore at the age of 13, then went to Delhi before joining ‘Bangalore Occasionals’ in 2012– a cricket club adopted by Just Cricket in 2009 , which participates in KSCA league matches.
Slow, low-playing wickets or fast, seaming green tops–both warrant an amalgamation of mental and technical skills. With players living largely out of suitcases, the mental wear and tear can become an impediment to their performance.
Mr. Nasiruddin, who is also a level-2 coach with the BCCI, believes: “As a player, you ought to learn how to strike the right balance between playing and behavioral skills. If you stay level through ups and downs in a game, it will hold you in good stead.”
Adding to the above point, Mr. Madyalkar reinstates that ‘if you continually focus on the negatives, they tend to become true more times than not. A player should build a positive mindset. That is what we try to achieve here.’
With KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, and Karun Nair doing well for India, Karnataka is once again in the limelight for supplying batsmen of the highest ilk. However, Mr. Madyalkar adds a caveat: “At the U-19 level, the talent has not translated into better displays in the domestic circuit. We need to work on that. Tournaments such as the Karnataka Premiere League, Tamil Nadu Premiere League and even the IPL, are training young cricketers how to survive and thrive under pressure. The exposure will also help them play better.”
He adds: “Our aim is to be the no. 1 coaching academy in India and produce maximum number of players for state as well as the country.”
And out in the nets, Abdul Majid produces a picture-perfect forward defence.
‘Good shot’, yells Mr. Nasiruddin. It is a job well done, indeed.