Prince of Kolkata Wants to Make Bengal a Sporting Superpower | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Prince of Kolkata Wants to Make Bengal a Sporting Superpower

The Sourav Ganguly Foundation will, through the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School, nurture talent at the grassroots with the sound backing of PitchVision's cutting-edge cricket technology.

Sport is as much about harnessing talent as it is about natural ability. A sportsperson, however gifted, needs a mentor to stream his talent in the right direction. Indian cricket is replete with such stories. There is this fabled relation between Sachin Tendulkar and Ramakant Achrekar. Then, we have the relatively less chronicled teacher-disciple tales of Keki Tarapore and Rahul Dravid, Baba Krishna Mohan and VVS Laxman, and Amar Nath Sharma-Virender Sehwag.

The stories underline the role of proper guidance in the career of a sportsperson. Even in that context, how many aspiring cricketers can hope to get guidance from a top-of-the-shelf cricketer who went on to become a legend of the game?

Well, here’s your chance.

The Sourav Ganguly Foundation, the brainchild of former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, has launched the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School to nurture talent at school level. The School has the sound backing of PitchVision, a UK-based company that provides cutting-edge cricket technology.

The programme aims to cover over 100 schools by the end of 2017. Grade ‘A’ coaches, handpicked by Ganguly, will impart a curriculum designed by the legend himself and will aim to nurture the talent of over 20,000 young cricketers across West Bengal — a state Ganguly wants to make the reservoir of world-class sporting talent.

“The aim of the foundation is to collaborate with schools and provide opportunities to children. We will make sure that we sit with the schools and provide opportunities to children who want to take up cricket along with their studies. We will sit with the school to design a curriculum which is not just about studies, but also involves a considerable amount of sport,” the charismatic Ganguly said.

In that sense, the Sourav Ganguly Foundation has taken a less travelled route. Often, sports and cricket academies are one-trick ponies, focusing only on their specialised subject. But the Sourav Ganguly Foundation has devised a plan to keep studies and sports on the same side of the road — a symbiotic relationship in every sense of the phrase. The students need not travel miles to reach the academy and they also need not compromise on their studies. It is a holistic approach conceived by Ganguly, one that can attract students and parents alike.

With a visionary like Ganguly behind the scheme, there can be little doubt over the quality and promptness of the general infrastructure and cricket coaching facilities to be in place.

In modern sport, coaching is also about employing state-of-the-art technology. Here, PitchVision has immense experience in creating a favourable cricketing ecosystem through their technical acumen and latest equipment. They will provide television-style statistics and analysis to all students enrolled with the programme. Through this technology, coaches will be able to provide players with instant feedback, an absolute necessity to inculcate a culture of high performance among them. Polishing their skills in such a challenging and professional environment will only help students come out better players and disciplined individuals. The Indian cricketing landscape will be benefited massively if the Sourav Ganguly Foundation can establish an uninterrupted supply line of talented players.

Hands-on involvement and direct interaction with pupils are significant aspects of talent nurturing. Here, too, the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School has taken steps to ensure the legend’s full involvement. Apart from personal interaction, the students enrolled with the programme can get direct feedback from the man himself. Yes, you read that right. Ganguly will be keeping an eye on the efforts of every student in the school digitally. He will monitor their performance and all the relevant data online and provide solutions. Besides, the students and coaches too will be able to individually analyse their performance online through the PitchVision app. This makes the Sourav Ganguly School the first-of-its-kind centre of excellence in India.

The technical excellence of PitchVision has earned high praise from several quarters, including from former England opener Marcus Trescothick. “You can have a good hit at the nets and immediately can go back to the room and see in which areas you need to improve. It is a fantastic technology to have,” said Trescothick.

The PitchVision coaching facility at the fabled Lord's Indoor Cricket School is prime example for their technical brilliance. In the centre, they have some ultra-modern devices like batsman's footwork sensor, pitch sensor, bowling mark sensor, instant feedback system based on plasma TVs, bowling machine feedback and so on. Now, many of these modern gizmos will be available to aspiring cricketers in India through the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School.

But the finest point of the venture will be that it will be taking cricket to the grassroots. It is the most important yet often neglected part of coaching and nurturing talent. A man blessed with a sharp, ever-ticking brain — cricketing and otherwise — Ganguly has understood that nurturing talent should begin from a tender age and has shaped the institution’s philosophy accordingly. As mentioned above, the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School aims to connect over 20,000 students through over 100 schools. In other words, it will automatically touch a the lives of children across the state.

The doors are open to all with an interest in cricket. The biggest beneficiaries of that open door policy will be those children who cannot afford to enroll with academies that offer cricket coaching at a premium price. At the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School, they can access the modern facilities and get to know the modern sporting world up close in a familiar yet professional environment.

“Many young cricketers stop pursuing their cricketing dreams because they cannot afford to go to a proper coaching centre. We shall provide free coaching to cricketers who are not financially strong. We want to appoint over 100 coaches to train the kids from different schools that are associated with us,”

said Ganguly.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for children to learn cricket from Sourav Ganguly and start a great cricket career. With Ganguly’s vision that education and sports can go hand in hand, we believe with proper training and technological support some of these children could be the next big players,” said Anirban Sen Chowdhary, Honorary Secretary, Sourav Ganguly Foundation.

Ganguly is the right man, too, to be the driving force behind such a scheme. Of course, being a Kolkatan, the left-hander knows the Bengal sporting world like the back of his palm. So, he will be in a position to envisage right plans for the state. Beyond that, Ganguly is a true visionary. He believes in empowering youth.

“We are extremely proud and happy to be associated with Sourav Ganguly’s visionary initiative. It’s a great initiative to help young children dream a guided career in cricket to make it big. Through our technology we aspire to take his cricket expertise and the team behind his vision across West Bengal,”

said Rohan Tamblo, CEO of PitchVision.

To get a glimpse of the inner folds of Ganguly’s mind and vision, you need to travel back to the days when he took over as the captain of the Indian cricket team. The entire Indian cricket establishment was in turmoil when he assumed the mantle. But, in a matter of a few months, he brought in stability and then took the team to new heights from the abyss. Under Ganguly, the Indian team played an aggressive brand of cricket, hitherto unknown to the fans and even to the players themselves. The change of mindset was evident in the on field results, too, as India began to win matches abroad as they set out to erase the tag of “lambs away from home".

Behind this seismic change was the power and self-belief of a bunch of youngsters along with the shrewd captaincy of Ganguly. Have a look at the players the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ groomed and monitored during every step of their growth: Virender Sehwag. Yuvraj Singh. Harbhajan Singh, Mohammad Kaif. Zaheer Khan. They all became part of Indian cricket history along with their mentor.

Now, under the active guidance of Ganguly, your child could join that illustrious group. Quite understandably, parents and budding cricketers in the City of Joy are overjoyed at the prospects of getting lessons from Ganguly.

“I really hope to get some lessons from Sourav Ganguly. Unlike many other coaches, he knows what has to be done to become an international cricketer. He had treaded international cricket with great success for many years. An interaction with him can only better my game,”

said Utkarsh Chatterjee, a Std X student who wants to make it big in cricket.

He will be one among thousands of aspiring players who nourish a similar dream. Ganguly’s vast experience as an international cricketer will be a big boosting point for the school. As an international cricketer, Ganguly travelled to several countries and those sojourns certainly gave him deep knowledge and rare insight into necessary infrastructure to develop cricket, especially at the grassroots.

Mentoring young cricketers is not just about imparting technical knowhow or providing the best facilities in terms of grounds and equipment. It is also about making the budding players mentally equipped to face the multi-headed challenges that international cricket throws at a player. As you climb the ladder, cricket gets tougher. The opponents will assess you quickly, they will have several strategies to plot your downfall, temptations in many forms will come from all directions, and a cricketer needs a strong mind to keep it all together.

Here, too, Ganguly has an important role to play. As a cricketer who played the game with integrity and courage, Ganguly will be able to assist young players to develop the qualities that made him a successful international cricketer.

Ganguly played in an era when Indian dressing room was filled with once-in-a-generation cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. They have been the bulwarks of Indian team for nearly two decades. The possibility of them dropping in once in a while to the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School cannot be ruled out, and it will be a massive bonus for the students. For, you will not get a chance every day to interact or listen to these titans in person.

But the onus will be on Bengal’s favourite sporting son to encourage, motivate and monitor the new crop of cricketers from his home state. Ganguly had inspired a generation of Indian cricketers to scale heights that would not have featured even in their wildest dreams otherwise.

Now, he can do an encore in Bengal. For the youngsters in the eastern state, too, it is important to have a hero to look up to. Any young sportsperson will need a beacon of light to keep his fire burning, a role model to follow his ambitions. Kids following tennis will look up to the magical Roger Federer. Aspiring footballers have the sublime Lionel Messi. The budding cricketers in Bengal then have a hero next door — Ganguly.

After retirement, it is easy for a top-notch cricketer to find many lucrative assignments and limit himself to a private world. Here, Ganguly has decided to walk a different path. He chose to give something back to the game that made him known to the world. For that, he took up an initiative involving huge effort without batting an eyelid. But challenges have never been able to make Ganguly take a backward step, have they?

The Sourav Ganguly Foundation and the Sourav Ganguly Cricket School could also stand as a model for other players to follow in mentoring the next generation of cricketers. In fact, it can be an example to follow for any sportsperson who wishes to give back to his game.

After all, Sourav Ganguly has been a path-breaking, mould-shattering force ever since he took up cricket.

Derek Abraham was reporting for PitchVision

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