Only surprise is that anyone can compete with India at all
Greg Chappell is a former Test Cricket legend, a former Australia captain, a former India team coach and a former Australian cricket team selector. Basically, he’s a one man authority on the coaching and development of world class cricketers. Post the Australian team’s humbling at the Gabba at the hands of the Indian team, Chappell is one of the few people outside India to figure out the true significance of this Indian win – that it is one of the first manifestations of the intensive player development processes that the BCCI has put in place over the past decade.
Chappell begins the piece by the saying that any player who makes it into the national side goes through a rigorous selection and development process lasting 6-7 years: “Australia were comprehensively outplayed by a so-called inexperienced team. If only people knew what these young men have been through to get selected for India, they might be a lot more generous towards our players.
An India wannabe gets the cricket equivalent of the Gurkha military training program – arguably the toughest physical and mental induction regime in the world.
Our young cricketers are weekend warriors compared to their Indian compatriots, who get challenging matchplay from the Under-16 age group onwards. As cricket is THE major sport in India, the best athletes in the country are playing the game and competition for state places is fierce.
Academic endeavour slips into the background for most of these lads at this age because, as one 16-year-old told me at the 2012 Youth World Cup in Townsville when asked about his schooling, “Sir, I don’t go to school. I will only get one chance at cricket, I can study at any time.””
Chappell then cites Shubman Gill as an example of the calibre of player that the BCCI’s player development process is now producing: “Shubman Gill represented Punjab in the three-day U16 interstate competition. At that age, only red-ball cricket is played because it is recognised that, to develop top-class batsmen, players need time to build a solid technical base.
At the U19 level, Gill played in four-day red-ball tournaments and a 50-over white-ball tournament comprising four teams for which 60 players are chosen. Match referees at these tournaments are all talent spotters. From there, Gill, who was a standout at this age, was selected as vice-captain to Prithvi Shaw in the winning 2018 Youth World Cup squad, where he scored 102 against Pakistan in the semi-final and was named player of the tournament.
Having graduated from youth cricket, Gill played in the U23 State competition, where the focus is still on red-ball cricket. Only three first-class players can be selected in the XI, to ensure that the best emerging talent gets the opportunities and challenges that are needed. No white-ball cricket is played at this stage.
Shubman has also represented India A with distinction. His innings of 204 from 248 balls against West Indies A drew high praise from the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh.
Dravid, who is the director of the National Cricket Academy based in Bangalore, devises a program of tours for India A which mirrors tours that India have coming up, or are on, to maximise the learning opportunities for the next generation of players.
By the time an Indian player reaches the national XI, he has had an all-round apprenticeship that prepares him to walk into the Indian side with a reasonable chance of success.”
Chappell ends his piece with a prediction which will both please Indian fans and highlight the growing imbalance between India’s rising profile in the cricket world and the relative slide of pretty much every other cricketing nation: “For those of you who were surprised that India could deal with all that was thrown at them in this series, and could hold their nerve and win in such courageous fashion, I say: you better get used to it.
Don’t worry about India becoming the best team – they are already capable of producing the best five teams in world cricket!”