Thirteen long years after he first helped Indian cricket establish the much-valued Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) in 2002, Dilip Vengsarkar, the former India batsman, is back in the saddle to develop grassroots cricket in the country once again.
On Tuesday (November 24), the Indian cricket board made it official that Vengsarkar will be the new director at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), presently based out of Bengaluru. To avoid any conflict of interest in the future, Vengsarkar has decided not to accept any fee in this capacity.
Few former India stalwarts have kept track of the vast Indian domestic circuit like Vengsarkar has in the last 15-odd years. The TRDW, an initiative to spot local talent beyond established centres, helped discover the likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, RP Singh and Piyush Chawla and many others in the decade gone by. As one of the finest selection committee chiefs between 2006 and 2008, Vengsarkar was also responsible for giving Virat Kohli his first break in the senior national team.
His next assignment heading the NCA “will be a far bigger responsibility than anything else,” says Vengsarkar. “As selector, I was lucky to have a talent pool to pick from. That pool has ceased to exist now. So, there’s certainly a lot of work to do,” he says.
The NCA, in its current state, is in need of a major revamp and Vengsarkar agrees with it, underlining his own admission that a lot needs to be done. “The NCA was immensely helpful at least until five or six years ago as it constantly helped in putting together a talent pool that would keep infusing fresh blood into the national teams. However, it has suffered in the last few years,” he says.
The idea of having zonal academies under the NCA umbrella is something that Indian cricket establishment has been waiting to successfully implement for a while now and Shashank Manohar, the current BCCI president, has been one of its fiercest advocates. Vengsarkar too believes that zonal academies are very essential, especially in a circuit as huge as India.
“It’s very important given the number of cricketers who come from various parts of the country. If you look at how the NCA functioned until some years ago (when TRDW existed), zonal centres played a very crucial role,” says Vengsarkar.
It’s now part of the cricketing folklore how Dhoni was discovered by TRDOs PC Podar and Raju Mukherjee, former Bengal captains, when they saw the wicketkeeper-batsman play for Jharkhand in a Deodhar Trophy match at Jamshedpur in 2003 and promptly sent a report to the NCA.
With BCCI taking a key decision in appointing a grassroots man at the helm of affairs, NCA can certainly look forward to a critical transformation with Vengsarkar around.