It was just over a month ago that cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar suggested the introduction of a 15-a-side format at Mumbai’s inter-school and collegiate level. The idea was based on the 40-year-old’s observations that the lesser players on a team don’t get a chance to play, regardless of the fact that they may have travelled great distances to be present at the venue. Though the former cricketer maintained that his recommendation was based on improving the talent pool available for the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), school level coaches have expressed mixed feelings towards the proposal.
“There need to be more specifications made when suggesting the change. He either meant to have a substitution policy, so that the benched players could field, or he meant to have 15 fielders and 15 players coming in to bat,” says Anil Sakpal, coach for Thane’s Vartak Nagar Madhyamik Vidyalaya. Seconding Sakpal’s concern was Bala Shetty.
“Cricket will lose it’s charm if we have 15 players batting and fielding,” says the St Lawrence High School coach. “And if there is a substitution policy, we might have a problem finding a genuine all-rounder since only the strong batsmen will go out to bat and the bowlers will bowl,” he adds.
Another hurdle, which most coaches consider is the biggest hindrance to the 15-aside prospect is that certain schools struggle with a shortage of players at the U-14 level.
“Once players turn 15 or have played for three years in the Giles Shield at the U-14 level, they move up to the U-16 level and compete in the Harris Shield. As a result, teams competing in the Giles Shield lose players,” explains St Mary’s (SSC) coach Arun Patil. “We coaches then have to build up a new team, and at times we don’t get enough players,” he states.
He's not the only one. Swadhyay Bhavan coach Srikant Maykar simply states, “sometimes we barely manage getting 11 players.
Gathering 15 is out of the question.” There is also the problem of making the entry into the final XI easier for the
kids, which could become a double-edged issue.
“It’s not a good prospect if you want to increase a player’s fighting spirit,” says IES Sule coach Gopal Koli. “It’s good to have players working hard to compete for the starting 11. They want to improve and impress so that they make it to the team. But when you get four more spots, some