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A cricket academy with a difference

Mumbai: Encouraged by the growing attraction towards cricket among the expat community in England, a group of Indians — both here and in the UK — have launched the World Cricket Academy (WCA) to forge a link between the expats and their roots.

Among the WCA’s founder members is former Board president Raj Singh Dungarpur, who remains most passionate about the sport. The WCA’s man in the UK, so to say, is an ex-Mumbai player who wishes to stay in the background.

“The WCA is registered as a company in the UK and, basically, we are looking at two aspects: That the kids of Indian origin do wish to have a feel of India and, when it comes to learning, there’s no dearth of former stars (in India) to help in that process,” informed Sachin Bajaj, who is closely associated with the WCA.

The WCA, of course, isn’t only looking at youngsters of Indian origin — it is also in business to organise camps (in India) for pucca English cricketers. Towards that end, its maiden venture has just taken off: Six County players (plus two of the MCC’s young cricketers and a couple of league players) are at a short spin-specific camp at the Cricket Club of India (CCI).

Present, too, is ex-England left-arm spinner John Childs, who has accompanied three Essex cricketers. It’s no secret that the Counties and, indeed, England could do with a huge improvement in bowling and tackling spin.

The camp began Monday, but will move into top gear Thursday onwards, as former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi finally arrives late Wednesday. Bedi’s one-time partner, Erapalli Prasanna, has already been imparting lessons in spin, with another ex-India captain, Nari Contractor, and Hanumant Singh (a centurion on Test debut) focussing on batting.

Contractor and Hanumant are Mumbai-based; Bedi and Prasanna have travelled from New Delhi and Bangalore, respectively. “We are simply monitoring and guiding,” remarked Prasanna, who has been involved with the National Cricket Academy, during a brief interaction with The Telegraph.

Though there’s no formal tie-up between the WCA and the CCI, the institution will be closely associated with WCA ventures in India. For instance, a fortnight-long camp (with the focus, predictably, on spin) will again be held at the CCI from the second-half of February. As of now, Middlesex’s coaching staff and a couple of the County’s promising players will be the beneficiaries.

Incidentally, the WCA — clearly, an academy with a difference — is looking to arrange pre-season tours for full-fledged County sides from next year. In between, there will be visits by young Indians/Asians.

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