Not long ago, Gymkhana Ground in Secunderabad was not the favoured destination for the big names of Indian cricket – more so because of lack of quality wickets to train. But things have changed for good of late, thanks to coming of Cricket Academy of Excellence set up by Hyderabad Cricket Association. And with former Hyderabad off-spinner Kanwaljit Singh donning the role of director and assisted by a panel of coaches including former India left-am spinner S.L. Venkatapathi Raju, Vivek Jaisimha, Noel David (fielding) there is a serious desire to change the face of the venue itself. Not surprisingly, in addition to the existing 11 turf wickets, another eight will be in place very soon under the supervision of HCA curator Y. L. Chandrasekhar.” “The whole idea is that anyone willing to train should not go back for want of facilities,” insists 54-year-old Kanwaljit Singh, who old-timers can easily recall slogging it in unfriendly conditions and yet emerging as one of the finest off-spinners in Indian cricket never to play for the country. We are essentially aiming at 24 x 7 practice facility wherein any State player can just walk in and train as long as he can,” says the former Hyderabad captain.
“The entire playing area will now be used only for matches and the training will be in nets only. Again, this is in the interest of the players and also ensure better maintenance of the ground,” says Kanwaljit. “The focus is definitely on putting in place good infrastructure – again not buildings – but basic cricket facilities,” he points out. “As part of our plans, we are in touch with the other State Associations and try to come up with some sort of exchange programmes for different age groups to facilitate match practice before the boys actually get into the competitive mode,” Kanwaljit explains. “The emphasis is on performance and the non-performers might just face the risk of being weeded out. For, there has to be some sort of benchmark for the Academy trainees,” he says. Interestingly, the Academy also organised an orientation course for the coaches from across the districts to educate and enlighten about the changing facets of coaching and the use of latest technology whenever desired. Significantly, women’s cricket, now governed by the BCCI in India and by the respective State Cricket Associations, will continue to get the same patronage from the Academy. “Of course, they will be given the desired support to be better players by providing them turf wickets,” Kanwaljit reminds. What with the presence of Satellite coaches like former Ranji stars Noshir Mehta, Vijay Paul and a qualified support staff including trainers, the Academy might just well turn out to be the ideal venue not for just young talent but also for the seniors too.