Calcutta: As many as three from Uttar Pradesh (UP) figured in the Team India XI when the ongoing one-day series was won in Multan. Then, leggie Piyush Chawla is waiting in the wings'
And, of course, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is from Jharkhand.
Gone are the days when the bulk of the cricketers came from Mumbai (then Bombay) or, as recently as a decade back, from Karnataka.
If Chandigarh’s pride Kapil Dev broke the monopoly of the big centres in 1978-79, Bhubaneshwar’s Debashish Mohanty did much the same almost two decades later.
In between, the Dhiraj Parsanas and Gopal Sharmas also played for India, but the major cities continued to dominate.
“Yes, that’s a thing of the past and I see more and more players emerging from the so-called smaller centres' Somebody like Dhoni is going to inspire a generation,” Kapil told The Telegraph on Friday evening.
The inspirational World Cup-winning captain, who was contacted on his cellphone, added: “I’m not taking credit for drawing the public’s attention to what then was a chota city, but I did make people realise that an India player didn’t have to be fluent in English' That he could communicate through the language of cricket alone'”
Laughing, Kapil continued: “Mind you, I’m still not fluent in English!”
Talking about UP, he said: “My own belief is that the state always had talent, but its cricketers lacked confidence' Perhaps, they weren’t sure of their ability to communicate' Perhaps, there was some other reason' That has changed'”
Two of the biggest performers in Multan ' MoM Rudra Pratap Singh and Suresh Raina ' are from the state which recently lifted the Ranji Trophy for the first time.
Rudra Pratap is Bara Banki-born; Raina’s roots are in Ghaziabad.
Mohammed Kaif flopped for the second match in-a-row, but the UP captain remains a regular in the ODIs.
According to Kapil, while the big centres do have the advantage of better facilities, the biggest disadvantage is the distance to be covered every day.
“In Mumbai, so much time is spent on the local trains' In New Delhi, most of the time is spent on the road' Time isn’t lost in the smaller cities and the kids can even go home (after school) for a quick meal before heading for nets or whatever'”
Kapil ended our tete-a-tete by urging the powers-that-be to focus at the schools level ' “catch the Dhonis and RP Singhs right there'”
Being chairman of the Board’s Cricket Development Committee, Kapil is himself in a position to offer impact-making inputs.