By Rashik Biswa and Meinam Amit Singh
SHILLONG, March 7: Evolving slowly and catching up with pace of their male-side, women’s cricket in India now has a beckoning that calls young cricketers to step in and make all the difference! At present, cricket scenario in Meghalaya is in its nascent stage, but the potential lurking within the state is yet to be discovered. But how?
To answer this question, The Shillong Times caught up with the Shillong Cricket Academy and the team there. The academy is nurturing budding cricketers and polishing their cricketing abilities, training young boys and girls every weekend in an inspiring and disciplined fashion, which is a treat to watch.
At the helm of affairs is the Technical Director of the Academy, Peter Jarman Lamare. A spirited Lamare can be seen pacing across the field, saying, “Hold the bat properly!” or “Middle of the bat! Wait for the ball to come to you!”
Speaking to ST, Lamare, who also happens to be the first player from Meghalaya to play in the Ranji Trophy, said he feels Meghalaya has a bigger chance in girls’ cricket.
Opining that the domestic season is not healthy, he said that this is the time to push and encourage girls so that they put up a competition and climb up to the sought level.
He went on to confidently state that Meghalaya can reach that level, while emphasizing on giving the girls tournaments to play. “They can’t play one or two matches in a year, it should be minimum 10-15 matches,” he stressed.
Talking about the academy, he said that it started in the year 2014.
“Initially, we had a good response. There were about 360 students at that time,” Lamare recalled.
“They (young children) know how to hold a bat and how to hit the ball; but how to hit the ball properly and how to hold the bat properly, that they don’t, that (to teach them) is our job. These are basics and the most important, so we are going very very slow, we are not in a hurry.”
The academy, according to the Technical Director, has Primary 1, Primary 2, Secondary 1 and Secondary 2 and Senior (Age 14-16) levels. Looked after by Lamare, the first level is where the youngsters are made thorough with the basics before they head to Primary 2 level where they experience training with the ball. In Secondary 1, they get further knowhow of cricketing but dominantly concerning the ball. In the Secondary 2 level, they strictly practise in the nets.
At the other end of the field, the coaches were training the senior members of the academy.
There, the ST had the opportunity to speak to the captain of state Under-19 girls’ team, Suriti Kumari Ray.
This inspiring young woman, a Class X student of BSF School, talked about her experiences at the academy. Heaping praise on the academy, Suriti spoke highly of her coaches who, she says, stood up for her when times were difficult.
She believes in not forgetting one’s roots — the basics.
Despite being a state player, she comes down to the field every weekend to train along with the academy students. This tells volumes about how much this budding cricketer values training.
She also left a message for girls aspiring to play cricket professionally: Step forward and learn the sport, and show others that you can make the difference.
The idea was backed by Lamare. “I strongly endorse women’s cricket in the state,” he stressed.
“We need better resources for the girls to improve on their skills,” Lamare further added. With just one proper cricket ground in the city, the former Ranji player feels that the students in the academy do not get the required game or practice time.
“Hopefully, we will have a ground ready for the girls and boys soon,” he said.
General Secretary of the Meghalaya Cricket Association and a director the Shillong Cricket Academy, Gideon Kharkongor, said that a ground has been identified in Lawsohtun to train young academy students.
“It will hopefully be ready in a month’s time,” Kharkongor said. “A separate ground for the academy will allow the girls and boys to practise the entire day if they need to. The more time they spend on the ground, the better they will get,” opined Kharkongor.
When asked about relocation of the academy to Lawsohtun from Polo, a parent, who stays in Nongmensong, said, “It would be very far for me to take my daughter to the academy if that happens. But I won’t mind taking my girl there. She wants to play the game and it’s my responsibility to make that happen.”
Kharkongor also had a similar opinion. “Nothing is too far. The academy will be within Shillong. And if one wants to hone and excel in their skills, distance should not matter,” the MCA general secretary said.
“In other parts of the country, the academy and training facilities are usually located on the outskirts of the city and people travel for kilometres and kilometres so that they can practice,” he concluded.