The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cricket tips from captain

Tuesday, at Harare, could decide the immediate future of Sourav Ganguly as Team India captain.

Monday, at Salt Lake, could decide the not-so-immediate future of hundreds of budding cricketers in Bengal.

On the eve of the crucial Videocon Cup Tri-Series final, admissions began to the Videocon School of Cricket, which has Sourav and elder brother Snehasish at the helm.

And the first morning saw a steady stream of sons and fathers, keen to book a berth in the training team. By the end of Day I, around 250 forms had flown off the counters, each winged with the dream to bat or bowl for the team Sourav now skippers.

Among those at the counter was 10-year-old Abhiraj Das from Gangulybagan. 'I want to be coached by Sourav Ganguly and other famous Bengal cricketers here' I am an all-rounder,' said the Class IV student of DPS (Ruby Park).

The cricket academy, off the Karunamoyee international bus stand in Salt Lake, is run by 22 Yards Sports Private Limited, of which Sourav and Snehasish are co-directors.

'We want to make it one of the best, if not the best cricket academy in the country, with all facilities required to make a talented boy a quality cricketer,' says former Bengal skipper Snehasish.

The academy is slated to have 16 practice wickets, along with a full-sized ground, bowling machine, gymnasium, library, medical facility and canteen (see graphic).

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is doing all it can to back the boys from Behala. 'We hope the academy becomes one of the best in the business, with Sourav's immense experience, and provides quality cricketers to the state,' says municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, cricket enthusiast and architect behind the academy.

CMDA has not only provided five acres of prime land in the township, but also done the initial land-filling and ground preparation, spending nearly Rs 50 lakh. 'The chief minister is very keen on the project, and he actually arranged for Videocon as sponsor when Sahara did not materialise,' reveals Bhattacharya.

The sponsorship deal for now is for three years, confirms Goutam Sengupta of Videocon, adding that the company would be keen on 'a continuous association'.

'We are not compromising on quality. If you compare this with the likes of the MRF Foundation, we just don't have a swimming pool and residential facilities; otherwise, ours will be better. We have even brought red soil from Bihar and the northern parts of Bengal to prepare quality practice wickets,' stresses Snehasish.

The lack of residential options could run out the likes of Abhijeet Chakraborty.

The 18-year-old from Durgapur, who turned up at the academy office counter on Monday, is keen to get a chance to play, 'only if I can get a place to stay'.

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