Though, it had been officially announced that the academy would be inaugurated on May 1, no firm steps had been visible. The BCCI committee for the academy, headed by former president Raj Singh Dungarpur, met for the second time within a month on Friday to finalise the nitty gritties of launching the first phase on the scheduled date.
Former Australian wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, who has been assigned the task of setting up the academy was in India on a short two-day visit from March 29 to 31.
Marsh had detailed discussions with Board president A C Muthiah and also the committee members sans Sunil Gavaskar, who could not attend the meeting due to prior commitment.
Marsh, who also visited the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) southern centre, gave his stamp of approval for the medical back up facilities available in the city.
"Rodney Marsh was very impressed with the sports medicine facilities at SAI. He felt that the medical back up here was better than what he had at his academy in Adelaide. We will make the best possible use of the available facility to enhance the physical fitness level of our players. Cricket is a game of skills and talent, but today the game has also evolved into a game of athleticism and physical fitness. Unfortunately, we are lacking in fitness and we want to inculcate these modern qualities in our young players in the hi- tech academy," former BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur, who is the chairman of the committee, told reporters at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Former cricketer Hanumant Singh will be the director and will be assisted by two coaches and an assistant coach. Roger Binny from Karnataka has been named the junior coach, while the name of the other coach has been kept under wraps.
Rajesh Kamath from Karnataka has been appointed as the assistant coach, while Colonel Nair, also from Bangalore, will be the administrative manager to take care of the needs of the boys.
The 24 boys for the camp will be chosen by Hanumant Singh in consultation with Roger Binny and other various association officials. The list of the 24 players is likely to be announced on April 10, according to Dungarpur.
"We have not decided on the other coach as we want to get their consent and availability. Roger Binny has been the junior coach and very involved with the boys. The Indian under-19 team that did superbly at Sri Lanka in the World Cup will form the nucleus of the 24 players that we have in mind. We want to concentrate on the fringe players in the first phase of the academy, which will go on from May 1 to September. We want the boys then to play in the national cricketing events, so that we will know where they stand. We expect the boys to play in the Coramandel Trophy, the Buchi Babu Trophy as well as the South African 'A' team which is expected to tour India in September," Dungarpur said.
The academy will look into every area of specialisation with former cricketers being roped in short spells to give specialised training for the boys.
Sunil Gavaskar, Bishen Singh Bedi, E A S Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan and Syed Kirmani are expected to share their wealth of experience with the young boys. The academy also proposes to make the young cricketers media savvy and understand the importance of media.
Agreeing that among the present foibles India was poor fielding side, Dungarpur stressed the need for passion among the national players especially when they represent the country.
"Unfortunately we don't see the kind of pride among some of our players. Pride is the other side of passion and in a country like India we would like to inculcate these habits amongst our younger players. This kind of pride is seen among the Australians, South Africans and to some extent among the Pakistanis. The youngsters must have fire in their belly especially when they play for their country. We have an adequate back up of legendary cricketers and want to imbibe this quality to fine tune our young cricketers," he said passionately.
The first phase will also include a temporary indoor facility with a single wicket within the limited resources available at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The facility will be put up by the BCCI so that the practice is not interrupted in case of rains during the months from May to September as the city is usually prone. The indoor facility is expected to be ready by the end of the month, while trainees will be housed at the present rooms available at the stadium.
Stating that the aim of the BCCI was to set up a "cricket centre of excellence" which can cater to the cricketing needs of the country, Dungarpur said, "Phase-I will start the ball rolling for the second phase. It is a slow building up process. In fact, the Australian Academy was started in 1988 and is now in the fore front of producing top quality cricketers. We would like to have a full fledged indoor facility during the second phase. The BCCI will have to decide on the venue for the second phase as the National Cricket Academy will be owned by the Board. We expect to have different surfaces in the indoor stadium. No too surfaces are similar and we would like to tackle this aspect also. We have earmarked Rs 3 crores for the next two years and will increase the budget as and when the need arises."
With a view to matching the best in the contemporary world of cricket, the academy proposes to utilise the services of dieticians and nutritionists to take care of the dietary needs of the wards.
Brijesh Patel, who along with Sunil Gavaskar, is a member of the three-member committee has been assigned the task of interacting with the nutritionists.
Rodney Marsh, who has laid out the blue print for the academy, will also assist by sending specific experts like a running coach or a throwing coach. Marsh will also visit the academy, time permitting, to interact with the youngsters and give them useful tips.
May be it is better to be late than never. BCCI has at last made an attempt to refurbish the image of the game in the country. Only time will tell if the efforts are going in the right direction and if the Indian players can match their other counterparts, especially when it comes to fielding and running between the wickets.
Though Sunil Gavaskar could not attend the meeting on Friday, the other members - Dungarpur, Brijesh Patel, Venkataraghavan and Polly Umrigar (both permanent invitees) - were present during the detailed discussions with Hanumant Singh, Roger Binny and Rodney Marsh.