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By Peter Della Penna
more attention being paid to youth development in the American cricket
scene, the demand for quality coaching has started to grow. As part of
that, coaches from overseas have started to come stateside to help
teach the aspects of the game that may not be readily apparent to kids
who aren’t experiencing the game on a daily basis.
Ajit Tendulkar is one such coach who is trying to have a positive
impact on American cricket by sharing his time and knowledge with young
cricketers eager to grow. As the older brother of Indian superstar
Sachin, Ajit acted as a mentor to help put his sibling on the path to
The elder Tendulkar has completed his seventh visit to the United
States to coach at the Cupertino based California Cricket Academy. On
the same visit, he conducted a week-long camp at Dreamcricket Academy
in Hillsborough, N.J. Tendulkar believes that even though his
opportunities in the USA are limited, the time has been well spent.
“As far as players are concerned, there has been progress most
certainly, but it’s slow but steady because my tenure was for a short
period,” said Tendulkar in an interview during his recent visit to New
Jersey and the Dreamcricket Academy.
Tendulkar says that parents play an important role. "They are
seeing to it that they follow up on whatever I’ve been talking to the
kids and every year I see certain improvement in that direction,
whatever I have spoken to the parents and the kids so that’s very
satisfying," he said.
Tendulkar has had a hand in aiding the development of many players from
the three-time defending U-15 National Champion North West squad. After
several years, the biggest improvement he’s seen in the players is in
overcoming the obstacles presented by playing on artificial wickets in
“I think most of these kids, they are playing on matting wickets and
what I’ve found was the bounce was a little too much,” said Tendulkar.
“The kids in the beginning were perhaps a little hesitant to play on
the front foot comfortably where they’re required to lean over the ball
and initially they could not do it properly. But over the period of
time, they are realizing the bounce well and adjusting accordingly
which is a very noticeable thing among them.”
In terms of comparing the talent in India to the talent available in
the USA, Tendulkar believes it is not easy to make an accurate
assessment because the approach is different from a cultural
perspective and there is a great disparity in the playing numbers as
“The option basically here, if you have to pick 10 best kids, you have
to pick them from maybe 50 odd boys,” said Tendulkar. “In India, there
are so many boys who turn up in one net that picking up 10 good boys is
Tendulkar told DreamCricket.com that USA and India cannot be
compared. “You can compare two things only when equal opportunity is
given to both sides. You really cannot compare kids in America with
kids in India because they hardly get, for example, after the practice
is over, each one is in his own house and not everyone must be watching
"In India, you get a lot to learn by watching others, watching senior players, on television or in newspaper. Here
there is a possibility that some of the kids are like, after the
practice when they go back home, the mind is switched off probably." Tendulkar
said that continuity is what is missing in USA. "You learn a lot just
by watching also so there is more opportunity there to pick up the game
more quickly than you can here,” he said.
In terms of the youth matches he’s seen, Tendulkar wishes there was
greater attention given to improving the standard of facilities used.
“So far I’ve been only able to watch kids (playing in youth macthes) in
California, that too in Cupertino,” said Tendulkar. “Ground conditions
were not so suitable for the game basically. So that’s the one thing
which needs to be taken care of so that you can really judge them
“The grass on the outfield was so thick that sometimes players wouldn’t
know whether they are scoring runs easily. Is it because of the
outfield that they have not been able to score runs?"
"That’s slightly confusing maybe for the younger kids. So I think the ground conditions also have to be improved.”
Along those same lines, Tendulkar believes that for USA’s youth
system to catch up to the rest of the world, installing turf pitches
should be the number one priority. “Pitches, most certainly,” said
Tendulkar. “If you get to play on turf pitches, that will be nothing
like it because then you are exactly on the same line with regular
cricket playing countries. So then you go to let’s say India or any
other regular cricket playing country, it will be no different because
you have already practiced on turf pitches, and the outfield. That’s
the first priority. They should get a chance to play on turf pitches
and the outfield has to be reasonably good.”
It’s also important for more opportunities to be given to young
cricketers, whether that is through playing in senior leagues or by
forming youth leagues around the country which hardly exist outside of
New York City.
"The more games you play, the better for you, no matter whether you are
playing cricket in America or you are playing cricket in India. So they
should get more opportunities against different opponents.” In
Tendulkar's view, match play is the only way to maximize exposure to
different kind of situations,
different types of bowlers, different types of wickets.
Despite the road blocks that are thrown up to prevent kids in America
from developing their cricket to the same level as those in Test
nations, Tendulkar is pleased with the enthusiasm he has seen from
everyone he has come across through his involvement in coaching kids in
“There is a lot of interest in America about this game of cricket,”
said Tendulkar. “It seems everyone is working to make it happen.
Children are keen on playing. They come from long distances sometimes
to just play in the nets. Parents are involved. They are taking great
efforts so I think that’s a very healthy sign. Everyone seems to be so
far very positive and looking forward to making it (work) rather than
complaining about it. Whatever is available, they are trying to make
the most of it. That’s the very positive thing about cricket in
Tendulkar was also pleased with his first coaching stint at the
Dreamcricket Academy, the first time he has done coaching on the east
“The setup here is really good,” said Tendulkar about the Dreamcricket
Academy. “I mean four indoor nets, bowling machines, and that helps you
to work on your particular weakness if anyone has so that helps really
to work on that. I think everything is available as far as indoor
cricket is concerned and the other day I saw that DreamCricket is
trying to get one of the grounds where they can start outdoor
activities (for juniors). So that will be a step for them."
Ajit Tendulkar camps are planned in Washington DC and New Jersey next summer.