New Delhi: Former India skipper Rahul Dravid called upon the BCCI to formulate a blueprint for junior cricket and said it was imperative to remove age fudging and illegal bowling action at the that level for the development of Indian cricket.
Dravid said that age fudging and the ability of coaches to correct faulty bowling action had a detrimental affect on Indian cricket and it was high time that corrective measures are taken to address the issue.
"I think of this overage business as dangerous and even toxic and to me gives rise to a question: If a child sees his parents and coaches cheating and creating a fake birth certificate, will he not be encouraged to become a cheat? He is being taught to lie by his own elders," Dravid said while delivering the fourth MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture here.
"At 14 it may be in the matter of the age criteria, at 25 it may be fixing and corruption. How are the two different in any way? In both cases, is it not blatant cheating?
" When I hear about some under-19 bowlers being reported for a suspect action, it upsets me deeply. What were the coaches doing until the boy got to that age - 17-18-19? Did his faulty action begin at the age of 10 years old, because his coach had him bowl the full 22 yards? Then as he grew up did his next bunch of coaches just let it go because the boy kept getting wickets and winning tournaments?," Dravid said.
"So, at 19, when an eager, hard-working boy could have played the junior World Cup, he is left trying to correct his action instead. Did this collection of short-term goals achieved through short-cuts hurt the child because as adults we turned a blind eye? " he said.
The former India captain spoke at length on the issues pertaining to junior level and said he is now getting a first hand feel of junior cricket after being appointed as the coach of the under-19 cricket team.
Both the Indian and South African cricket teams, top BCCI officials and a host of dignitaries were present at the event, which was also graced by the late Pataudi's wife Sharmila Tagore.
Talking about the issue of suspected bowling action, Dravid said: "Like the issue of bowling actions, it is a similar emphasis on short-term results that has led to the scourge of overage players in junior matches. That entire exercise begins when a coach alters a player's date of birth so that he can take part in a local tournament. The parents are happy to accept the value of an extra year or two, particularly in junior cricket and, academically at middle school.
Everything about his rise to the Indian team, the inevitability of his success was beyond the ordinary. It was phenomenal and to us who were his age, it was almost scary.
"What people tend to forget is that Sachin had a great support system. His family were supportive and caring, his elder brother was always there to guide him, his coach Ramakant Achrekar was more than a coach, a mentor in life and on the pitch, teaching him how to hold the bat, driving him to games.
"Sachin was lucky that he had this vast umbrella of support and I dare say and he would agree, he wouldn t have survived and prospered if not for it. Not every young talent is lucky enough to have that kind of support. The history of Indian cricket is littered with stories of young exciting talent falling by the way side due to a lack of support and guidance," he explained.
Dravid also called for strict guidelines as to what a child can do at a cricket academy.
" The BCCI must publish a Minimum Standards guideline which academies must adhere to. If they fail, they must be pulled up. We could get the most out of this vast network of academies if they are brought into the formalised structures of the game. And made responsible and answerable to the governors of the game at our highest level," he said.
"We may not be doing enough to attract youngsters and thus losing out on talent. Cricket is not the number one sport for youngster anymore.
"Rather than expect our best talent to come flocking to our junior cricket nurseries, we first need to have a clear, detailed plan. A blueprint for our junior cricket."
Dravid also heaped praise on Justice Mukul Mudgal. "I read that Justice Mudgal who is in charge of the organisation of the Delhi Test, wanted free tickets to be distributed to children whose parents couldn't afford to bring them to the game. This is forward thinking," he said.
Walking down memory lane, Dravid also talked about Pataudi and said he was someone who had great positivity for modern cricket.
"As a young cricketer I always wanted to meet Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi because growing up I had heard so much about him from senior players. From the biggest names in Karnataka cricket of the time: EAS Prasanna, B S Chandrasekhar, GR Viswanath. They would tell us about this inspirational and charismatic captain.
"At a time when former cricketers had post-retirement careers as analysts and commentators of the game, Tiger Pataudi was heard about much more than he was seen. He had what you call an aura and I thought maybe that was because he was, after all, a prince; maybe that was what princes were supposed to be like.
"When I did meet him, one afternoon at his home in Delhi almost 20 years ago, I was struck by two things: the first was an utter lack of bitterness about what he had been dealt with by destiny: to have the world at your feet as a highly-accomplished 21 year old sportsman and to then lose sight in one eye at the point your career was just about to take off. To then handle that, find a way to continue playing at a level that made a difference not merely to his team, but to his country's cricket.
"The second feature that struck me was the absence of any 'in my day' kind of talk. There was no excessive nostalgia in him, he had a great positivity about modern cricket. He was not unnecessarily critical of the modern player, believing that cricket had improved in every aspect. He was incisive, analytical and objective. He took great pride in Indian cricket and how far it had travelled."