La Martiniere For Boys versus Calcutta Boys at Vivekananda Park. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s infectious, and it has spread to the cradles of cricket in Calcutta.
Traditionalists may smirk but schoolchildren in the city have fallen bat, ball and stumps for the thrills of T20, slamming the longer versions of school cricket for a six.
“Every child who plays cricket loves to hit a four or a six. T20 fits the bill,” said school coach Biswajit Bhowmick on the sidelines of a 10-day T20 tournament, organised by Mindscapes Maestros in association with Kolkata Group and The Telegraph in Schools (TTIS). Around 110 students from eight schools are participating in the Vivekananda Park tournament, which should become an annual affair.
“We had thought of organising such a school-level tournament long ago. It was reinforced by India winning the T20 World Cup and the popularity of the first edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL),” said Yudhajit Dutta of Mindscapes Maestros, a sports management company.
Bhowmick, the coach for both Calcutta Boys and St Xavier’s Collegiate School, feels schoolchildren love T20 not only for the freedom to bend the traditional laws of the game but also because it is “less stressful” than other formats.
“The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) organises 45-overs-a-side matches that take around eight hours to finish. In T20, both innings are over in three hours. That leaves children with time to study, too,” he explains.
National High School for Boys, Don Bosco (Park Circus), Assembly of God Church School, La Martiniere for Boys, Pailan World School and Lakshmipat Singhania Academy are the other institutions that fielded teams in the inaugural edition of the tournament.
Arijit Banerjee, a Class XI student of Calcutta Boys, said T20 allowed him to play cricket without compromising on his studies. “Many of us in the team are in the higher classes and have academic goals as well. T20 is easier on us.”
But what about the effects of T20 on cricketing technique at the formative stages?
“You might not see too many sixes at the school level because we advise students to focus on not throwing their wickets away in the first 10 overs,” Bhowmick said.
Some experts are, however, worried about school cricketers starting to play differently to suit the T20 style.
“There is now a tendency among players to go for risky shots. Spinners who play too many T20 matches start bowling flat,” said selector-turned-coach Sambaran Banerjee, whose wards are playing in the tournament. “There should not be more than five-six T20 tournaments at the school level,” he added.
But in the cricket-crazy city of Sourav Ganguly, Shah Rukh Khan and Kolkata Knight Riders, T20 can only get bigger and better.
The champions and runners-up in the inaugural edition of the school T20 tournament will get Rs 50,000 and Rs 30,000. The third and fourth-placed teams will be awarded Rs 10,000 each.
Members of all eight teams will be presented certificates signed by Team India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.