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The Karnataka Institute of Cricket: Grooming the next Tendulkar

If you’re walking on St John’s Road towards the RBANMS school ground, you can’t help but hear the thundering roars from behind the Mariyamma Temple. They are from the Karnataka Institute of Cricket, commonly referred to as the KIOC. Nested opposite the Sivan Chetty Garden Post Office, it is a nurturing ground for aspiring cricket players. Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey began their cricket careers here.

Netted walls and green turfs cover the KIOC. Bowling machines are scattered around. Cameras are installed for video analysis. Children and adults run about with their bats and pads, rushing towards the nets for practise. Coaches and students, in blue track uniforms are focused are determined to bring out or be the next set of cricketing stars from Bangalore.

Speaking with Irfan Sait, Director and Head Coach of the KIOC, we get a little dose of history. “We started in 1996. It has been more than 17 years of many ups and many downs. It was difficult at the onset, but now we are enjoying the fruit that has come out of it.”

When entering the gates of the KIOC, one is immediately greeted by a large wall of fame. It is an achiever’s gallery with more than a hundred names, all of those who have made their contributions to the sport in Bangalore as well as in India.

The KIOC picks out its pupils based on passion and determination and happens during summer camp at the RBANM’s Ground.

Of course, training in an academy of such calibre comes at a price. The KIOC offers a fee structure depending on the session (morning, afternoon or evening). Fees range from Rs 5,000 for a morning or evening session to Rs 9000 for both. It costs Rs 18,000 for weekend sessions throughout the year. Add to this the cost of equipment, that can run almost Rs.40,000, says Sait adding, “We train for 15 hours a day, 365 days a year. We work harder on holidays while others enjoy the luxury. We have about sixty coaches with fifteen kids under each coach. We push for one-on-one training with each individual trainee. We are the only academy in Bangalore that employs foreign coaches.”

The KIOC’s infrastructure comprises of a 60-bed hostel with a gym that houses young cricketing enthusiasts, including 25 overseas players. Said goes on to say, “We always have one of our kids in the Karnataka Ranji Cricket team. The current team has 8 players from our academy.”

The KIOC also conducts annual tours to countries like Sri Lanka, Australia, England and other states in India. “These tours are extremely popular as the trainees get much needed exposure and understand the demands of touring life and learn life skills,” says Sait.

The KIOC has produced household names in the cricketing world. Apart from the ones already mentioned, the institute has shaped star cricketers in women’s cricket as well. With the amount of training that goes on everyday at the KIOC, we ask Sait if there are more potential stars that may come out of the halls of the academy. Sait says, “We have plenty. If one is to ask for five names, we can mention five. If one asks for a hundred names, we can do the same.”

Sait narrowed it down to five for us. On asking why he mentioned these particular five, he says, “It depends on the time of the day and the day of the week. Tomorrow, I can narrow it down to another five or ten.” As the five players walked in, the trained discipline that the pupils exude is evident.

Dev Dutt, 13, from St Joseph’s Boy’s School, tells us “I have been playing cricket for seven years. I have been training with the KIOC for two. Cricket is a passion for me and I want to consider it as a career option.” The young Dutt has toured around South India the past three years as a junior cricketer. He says, “My dream is to play next to Tendulkar.”

Another 12-year old cricketer is Shubhang Hegde from Vidya Niketan School. Hegde has been playing cricket for six years and has been a part of the KIOC for two years as well. Hegde says, “My father plays cricket and he has always inspired me to take it up.” The little cricketer practises everyday for two hours, hoping to play next to the legend that is Tendulkar. Hegde adds, “The KIOC does not only improve my cricketing skills. It has helped with my mental capability in school and it has shown me the importance of being disciplined.”

Dinesh Borwankar, 21, recently finished his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce at Jain College. He tells us, “I have been with KIOC for thirteen years. I would like to make a career out of cricket, but it is always good to have an alternative.” Borwankar mentions that he has toured across the country to play cricket. He adds, “I practise for 5 hours a day at the KIOC. This has helped with my basics, my technique, but most importantly, it has helped me as a human being.”

Nishant Singh Shekhewat, 23, is a cricketer. He has been at the game for thirteen years. “It is my love for the game that has helped me continue to keep training. I want to make it to the Indian team. I almost qualified for the First Class team, but I am hopeful that it will happen in another couple of years.” Shekhewat tells us that he recently played at the WACA Ground in Australia. The WACA pitch is considered to be one the quickest and bounciest wickets in the world. “Thanks to the connections that Coach Sait has, I have been able to tour Australia and England.” Shekhewat says he trains for seven hours a day. “Cricket is my job and I love my job. I have played with many big names from around the world, including Marcus North and Adam Voges.

Abrar Kazi, 23, plays for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. “I have been training with the KIOC for thirteen years. Apart from the RCB team, I have also played in several Ranji one-day matches.” Kazi has played in Sri Lanka as part of then KIOC club matches. Kazi mentions, “The KIOC has taught me more than playing cricket. I practise for three to four hours a day. This disciplined training has helped me not only as a cricketer, but as a person.”

Sait concludes, “One needs a trained eye to spot potential. I believe every individual in our academy has the capability of making it big in the cricketing world. We are helping these kids to get closer to their dreams. It is their hard work and determination that will decide the rest.”

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The man behind the stumps

Irfan Sait is a qualified full time coach available 24 x 7 x 365 with the unique distinction of completing the Level I, II and III coaching courses each from a different country:

1. Level III - England (ECB)
2. Level II - Australia (CA)
3. Level I - India (KSCA)

He is also a member of the Coach Associations of England and Australia, a rare feat achieved only by a few in the subcontinent. Sait has been deeply involved in the game for the past 30 years. He has played in all the divisions of the KSCA League.

Sait assisted the Indian men's cricket team in the training camp held at Bangalore in preparation of the World Cup '96. He also coaches at Macclesfield, Cheshire County, Manchester, England.

Sait has held many offices:

1. Joint Secretary of The Swastic Union Cricket Club.
2. Secretary of The Jawans Cricket Club.
3. Vice President of The Modern Cricket Club.
4. Vice President of The Youth Congress.
5. Former Secretary & South Zone Convenor of The Women's Cricket Association of India.
6. Former Member of various sub-committees of the KSCA.