Sachin Tendulkar, who recently retired from cricket, won accolades at a felicitation function organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) in his honour when he suggested that 15 players should be allowed to play on rotational basis instead of 11 in inter-school and inter-collegiate matches.
However, Mumbai already has a similar tournament that has been running for eight years. The only difference is that 14 players are allowed to play instead of 15 as suggested by Tendulkar.
Like Tendulkar, the sole purpose of the organiser, Sangam Lad, behind starting this unique tournament was to give opportunities to youngsters who often miss a berth in the playing XI.
“Tendulkar was right in asking why kids should have to miss a game because of team strategies etc. They have worked equally hard like the others and it is obviously disappointing for them.
And if it keeps happening often, they lose motivation. Youngsters need to be given enough exposure. By formulating such a concept (14-player a side), it is possible to give exposure to at least six more kids in a match,” Lad told MiD DAY.
The tournament, which is named after Lad’s cricket academy SP Group, is held from December to May at Shivaji Park. Matches for inter-collegiate, inter-club and inter-corporate categories are held on weekdays.
Each side plays 40 overs with the fielding captain getting two opportunities during the innings to rotate players. “The skipper can shuffle players after 15 overs and then after 30 overs. It is the captain’s discretion how many players he wants to rotate.
For the batting side, any 11 out of the 14 can play. There is no need to declare the line-up before the match. And from our experience, the change has made matches more competitive. The captain has to do a lot of thinking,” said Lad.
Lad claimed that almost all Mumbai Ranji Trophy players have played in this tournament. “Right from Ajinkya Rahane to the current lot of Siddhesh Lad and Kaustubh Pawar, everyone has played in this tournament. Suryakumar Yadav got into contention for a Mumbai spot after slamming three consecutive centuries,” he said.
The tournament got MCA’s recognition only five years ago. “For the first three years we continued without the official nod as it was against the rules. It was only later that MCA officials decided to take the tournament under the Association’s auspices.
“But we don’t get any grants from the MCA like ground charges, balls, etc. Everything has to be borne by us. College teams only have to pay for the umpiring fees. There have been a few sponsors who have supported us in footing some expenses,” said Lad.
With Tendulkar now supporting this radical concept for junior cricket, the ball is in MCA’s court.