Thomas bats for popularising baseball in India

Mumbai: The basic similarities between cricket and baseball could be exploited by coaches to popularise the American sport in India, feels Major League Baseball Academy coach William Thomas.

"There are similarities but there are differences as well in the two games. But just the fact that players are playing with a bat and a ball and there is catching involved as well besides it requires hand-eye co-ordination...that`s specific to both sports," Thomas said.

"Previously we worked in countries, where there was neither baseball nor cricket. It (baseball) was foreign to them but in India, the youngsters know cricket. They already are more advanced, already a couple of steps closer to understanding and performing in the game of baseball," he added.

Thomas, along with his colleague Rajiv Ramaswami Subramanyam, is conducting a week-long Major League Baseball (MLB) Coach Certification Course in Mumbai.

"Coaching is coaching and you have to figure out how to teach your wards," Thomas said.

Thomas felt that one of the steps to popularise baseball in India is to introduce it in schools.

"In other countries in the (South East Asian) region, baseball is being introduced in the form of physical education in elementary schools. That would be the pattern to follow, which is what many other countries have done."

Commenting on the course, he said it was a coach-to-coach training session, the most basic certification programme conducted by America`s MLB.

"Basic rudimentary skills of baseball are introduced with technique instructions that can be imparted to students. We include some coaches` tips and how to implement the things they are learning to their own younger players," said Thomas.

"The Indian coaches (about 50) are very enthusiastic (about the course). They are glad to be there. They are from sports background, having experience of a bat and ball in hand, and have a good hand-eye co-ordination. Their basic skills are well developed. We are just going to refine their skills and fine-tune them in requirement with baseball," he added.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Baseball Association (MBA) secretary, Rajendra Ikhankar said the performance of the national team has been steadily improving over the years.

"Our junior boys` team has twice won silver medal in the Asian Championships (1995, 1999), while the senior team consistently qualifies for the last eight," he said. Two Indian youngsters -- Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel -- have played in the minor leagues of MLB, he added. MBA will be hosting the state-level championships, beginning from August 30 at Buldhana, and the national meet at either Nashik or Jalgaon in October, Ikhankar added.


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