Harsha Bhogle has an interesting new column in Cricinfo about the rote-learning at Indian cricket “academies”:
Ten-year-old kids are going to academies of various hues, largely dubious, to learn the forward-defensive stroke and the cover drive. They must learn almost by rote, and therefore not too differently from the way they study history; they are taught about where the front foot should be, about how bat and pad must go together, where the elbow should be, where the toe should point, about how the follow-through must end with the bat over the left shoulder. All perfectly correct, except that they don’t learn to hit a ball; instead, they become obedient pupils.
Bhogle’s point mainly deals with the danger of “mollycoddling” coaches, but I think there’s a bigger problem in store with cricket if most of its recruits learn at the hands of textbooks and manuals. Because of its geographic and ethnic diversity, cricket has always produced its outliers and eccentrics — Murali and Mendis; Jack Russell and his strange wicketkeeping stance; Paul Adams and his unbelievable bowling action.
More broadly, there are different types of players (consolidators, Michael Bevan-type pinch-hitters; Jayasuriya/Sehwag openers). I’m not saying Bombay alleys are the ideal breeding ground for cricketers, but I think there should be a fair enough space left for experimentation and fun. Rahul Dravid is beautiful to behold, with his classical shots, but we all need a little Dilshan scoop now and then.