After his retirement, Sachin Tendulkar, Rediff.com's Harish Kotian discovers, has become more outspoken about cricketing issues.
Sachin Tendulkar says the Indian Premier League helped the Board of Control for Cricket in spreading the game to smaller centres, thereby giving opportunities to more players.
"You can take the example of India captain (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni who has come from a small town (Ranchi); but see where he has reached. Now more and more players are coming from small towns and doing well for the Indian team," Tendulkar said.
He was speaking at an event in Mumbai on Tuesday, December 3, during which the Mumbai Cricket Association's Bandra-Kurla Complex was named after Union Agriculture Minister and former BCCI president Sharad Pawar as the Sharad Pawar Indoor Cricket Academy and Recreation Centre.
The batting icon, who was also felicitated on the occasion by the MCA for his contribution to Mumbai cricket, made a unique suggestion to his home association, saying the format of its inter-school and inter-college competitions must be tweaked to include 15 players for a match, instead of the normal 11.
He believes this will help give more players a chance and enable the selectors to have a larger pool to select from.
"My suggestion to MCA is that the inter-school and inter-college matches, instead of 11-player matches, why don't we play 15 players? A young boy wakes up early every day and travels long distance, but still he is not sure whether he will play or not."
"Some players have to miss out unfortunately, not because they are lacking in talent but because the conditions demand a different team line-up. The players work for the whole year round and they still don't get chances in tournaments like Giles Shield and Harris Shield (the cricket competitions for Mumbai schools where Tendulkar first made a mark)."
"My thinking is based on the view that we should have a player play at least three matches in a season in the tournaments. Till a player is able to stand on his feet, the MCA should support them. This move will help us have a larger pool of players to select from, and, in turn, the selectors will have more options and nearly 10,000 children will profit from this move."
"I think we should introduce something new and try to give everyone an opportunity which will benefit Mumbai cricket, and the rest of the nation will follow suit. Imagine nearly 10,000 kids will benefit," he said.
During the event, Mumbai youngsters Prithvi Shaw, who scored a world record 456 at the age of 14 in the Harris Shield, and eight-year-old spinner Musheer Khan, who became the youngest bowler to take a five-wicket haul in the inter-club Kanga League, were felicitated by the MCA.
While players like Shaw and Khan are guaranteed to play for their teams Tendulkar said some lesser-talented players will have to miss out. He hastened to add that his suggestion is not with a view to provide more opportunities for his son Arjun who participates in inter-school and junior cricket for Mumbai.
"Some will say that (be)cause Arjun plays, that is why I am suggesting; but that is not the case. I have seen many players play with the same passion, but they didn't get chances."
"For me, if Arjun is successful or not, he will still get my support, but a lot of players will not get the support, as their parents will force them to try other fields. You should not leave the platform without getting an opportunity; that saddens me," Tendulkar said.
"I want to thank Pawar Sir for starting this club on behalf of all cricketers. I have practiced at this ground for the last few years. For me, cricket is like oxygen. When it used to rain and there were no indoors facilities, we used to practice in the muck with my friends. Now we can practice all through the year in the indoor facility at this venue."
"This year, I remember I had announced my retirement. I was practicing here and the ground staff gave me an emotional send-off because they knew it was my last practice session. I just want to tell them that I will come back to take small doses of my oxygen. So they won't get relief from me anytime soon."
Former India player Madhav Apte, who played seven Tests for India from 1952 to 1953, said Tendulkar would be included in the exclusive Legends Club.
"The Legends Club was established 11 years ago," the 81-year-old Apte said. "Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad were the first three members; the fourth legend was (Sunil) Gavaskar. I am the president and we have unanimously decided that Sachin will be our fifth member. I spoke to him earlier and took his permission."
Image: Sachin Tendulkar (centre) with Prithvi Shaw (left) and Musheer Khan at the Mumbai Cricket Association's function at their Bandra-Kurla Complex.