MCA's academy in BKC is used as a practice centre: Lalchand Rajput

BKC indoor academy chairman Lalchand Rajput says coaching is non-existent; facility is used only as a practice centre

While the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) officials have shown concern whether "better facilities" are required for its cricketers after the Ranji Trophy debacle for the second consecutive year, their Rs 20 crore state-of-the-art indoor cricket academy (38x28m area) at the Bandra Kurla Complex is virtually non-functional since the association's elections last July.

Mumbai players wear a disappointed look during the Ranji Trophy
semi-final against Tamil Nadu recently. Pic/Suresh KK

Developed with an aim of being a grooming school for Mumbai cricketers, the academy is reduced to just a practice centre. According to Lalchand Rajput, chairman of the MCA sub-committee for the BKC indoor academy, it is virtually shut. "The academy is non-existent at the moment. Players come and practice. There is no one to guide them and help them improve their skills," a furious Rajput told MiD DAY.

L Rajput

Mumbai have won the Ranji Trophy a record 39 times, but have not been able to claim the silverware for the last two seasons. In the opinion of many pundits, Mumbai cricket's standards are plummeting. In November, Mumbai stalwart Zaheer Khan told this newspaper that coach Sulakshan Kulkarni and chairman of selectors Milind Rege, "are actually pulling Mumbai cricket back." This came in the wake of Ajit Agarkar not making the Mumbai playing XI in their Ranji Trophy away tie against Orissa.

Mumbai's sole success this season on the domestic front was achieved by their under-19 team which clinched the Cooch Behar Trophy earlier this week. "The academy has not got any support staff. We only have one bowling coach � Pradeep Sundaram. There is no batting and fielding coaches, and an academy director. No trainer, physiotherapist or video analyst  has been appointed. It's been nine months since I have given a detailed plan of what needs to be done at the academy, but nothing has happened so far.

"I have written several letters to the MCA secretaries regarding various appointments at the academy, but there is no response. It is only on Thursday that I got a reply from them stating that they will discuss the issues in the next Managing Committee meeting," the former India Test player added.   

Though many in the MCA believe that support staff is not required as coaches of various age groups can utilise the facilities at the indoor academy, Rajput begged to differ. "The academy will come in handy to groom cricketers, who don't get a chance in the squad. It is here where the academy's support staff will develop them for the next season. We just can't let their talent go for waste. We have to work with them on their skills, fitness and technical aspects to make them better," the former India coach said.

In Rajput's plan, the support staff at the academy will have designated roles. "Support staff should have specified roles, so that everyone can work in one direction. The support staff can also mentor age group players. I also suggested having an academy team of probable players from all age groups who missed out on their chances.

These players can be groomed at the academy. They can compete in various tournaments and the selectors can turn to them for any replacements. In that way, they will have something to look forward to. "Another suggestion was to have a consulting dietician and psychologist. These are important aspects that cannot be ignored. We can help them become complete cricketers. The academy is not just for the teams to practice. You have to be operational all the time. There is so much to do there, but sadly nothing is happening," he said.

There is also talk about MCA contemplating various cost-cutting measures which may be a reason for the delay in appointments at the indoor academy. "If that's true, then we should shut the association as well. It is a shame that we don't have money for our cricketing activities. If they are so concerned about costs, why did MCA send the women's U-19 team to Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) by air for a practice match when the season will begin in Sept-October," said Rajput. 

MCA joint secretary Nitin Dalal said the support staff would be appointed by end of this month even as the season comes to an end. "The appointment of support staff at the indoor academy is on our priority list and we will decide on it by end of this month.

From this year onwards, we have started paying the support staff of various teams on a yearly basis instead of season-wise compensation. So, we had to consider those costs as well. That is why there was a delay in appointments," said Dalal. "Being a cricketer, it hurts when such magnificent facilities are lying idle. It is high time the MCA gives priority to cricketing activities over other things," Rajput signed off.

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