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Catch them young

Cricket has become a billion-dollar industry. The new and exciting dimensions of cricket have opened new avenues for players, trainers, coaches, investors and sponsors alike. However, in a country like Pakistan where there is no check on population and rapid urbanisation, the playing spaces for organised game have shrunk to a great extent and the available facilities for young cricketers are either limited or out of range for financially constrained yet extremely talented youth in thickly populated cities of Pakistan.

Catch them young

The further sad part of the story is the exploitation of young talent in the name of scientific coaching and organised training by the retired cricketers, who have opened several cricket academies in the major cities of country, where heavy fees are charged from young cricketers, managed by unqualified coaches imparting specialised juvenile coaching to young cricketers with unsatisfactory results.

Resultantly, parents are ending up paying through their nose and the “gentlemen’s game” is not getting fundamentally correct and physically fit young players, who should be able to play the modern brand of cricket at any given level.

Unfortunately, the mantra of these so-called cradles of training is business and not game development. Jalaluddin Cricket Academy (JCA), established by Pakistan’s Test fast bowler of the 1980s in Karachi caught my attention because of its approach and mission. Jalal along with his committed associates is focused on paying back to the game he adores, by providing free of cost training and coaching to young cricketers in a planned and phased manner.

Jalaluddin immortalised himself in the Pakistani cricket history by recording the first-ever hattrick in One-day Internationals against Sri Lanka at Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad, on 20th September 1982.

Jalal is different from most of his contemporary players who only thrive on their glamorous cricketing careers as players and consider themselves absolute authorities on coaching because of their playing experience.

Jalal on the contrary is a qualified level 4 PCB coach who also earned his Tutor level certification from England and Australian level 2 from Brisbane.

Born on June 12, 1959, in Karachi, he was trained as a marine engineer. He did his graduation with commerce as his majors. His forefathers migrated from Delhi to Karachi. Jalal lived his early life in PECHS society and lived most of his time in North Nazimabad where he played most of his early cricket.

In 1982, he went to England and later joined Allied bank for a brief period before starting his professional career with Pakistan Customs in 1996 as a professional cricketer and an Appraiser. He was later assigned the responsibilities of raising the departmental cricket team of Customs. He served the department of customs for more than three decades with distinction and identified and developed many players who later represented Pakistan at top level.

Players like Rashid Lateef, Fawad Alam, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Sami, Asim Kamal, Hassan Raza, Rana Naveed, Shadab Khan, Azhar Shafiq, Tehseen Ahmad, Mohtasim Rasheed are the proud products of Pakistan Customs.

Jalal was also the principal force behind the maturity of Customs Cricket Academy and the cause of women cricket in Pakistan. He later moved to Houston where he is venerated as a coaching expert of highest pedigree.

His passion for the game and coaching experience motivated him to start a cricket development project in Karachi with the help of Helping Hand For Relief & Development USA (HHRD-USA) which provides support for skills development & livelihood, education, comprehensive physical rehab, healthcare and nutrition in different underdeveloped countries around the world.

The joint venture is a cricket project intended to engage boys and girls of age 14 to 16 years with limited facilities essential for the development of physical, mental, athletic, tactical and above all the behavioral skills of players which are required for personality grooming at an early age.

This Sports Skills Development Programme (SSDP) of HHRD USA, facilitated and pioneered by JSA Pakistan, is also supported by the Houston Karachi Sisters City Association, thus undertaking a long term cricket development project in Karachi at the grassroots.

Let’s Catch Them Young is a three-year development project providing the right training practices and competing environment in early growth and development years of young cricketers. This project is designed to make all participants as good as they can be and thus provide everybody with equal opportunity of realising their full potential in cricket.

The best part of the project is that besides cricketing skills the trainees are exposed to life skills training like discipline, team work, character building, leadership, good ethical practices and communication skills.

The project is divided into 4 stages. Transformation stage being the first introduces the players to cricket specific skills as well as physical components including speed, stamina, strength, flexibility and agility.

Specialisation stage is the second stage at which basic cricket skills are enhanced. The tactical aspects of cricket are taught and grilled into the young cricketers. Players are exposed to mental toughness, self belief, positive body language and cricket specific fitness regime.

The third stage is competition where players are provided with opportunities to showcase their skills in real game situations through target driven matches thus performing as per given roles. Awareness of modern cricket rules, code of conduct and adaptation to different playing conditions is taught. At this stage elite cricketers are invited to mentor the young players.

The final and fourth is the “Train to Win” stage. In this finishing stage the focus is on team dynamics, process vs outcome, game awareness, application of winning combinations and enhancement of competition related skills.

The programme that started in July 2023 with invitation of all 7 zones of Karachi City Cricket Association nominated 10 budding prospects of their zone from the stipulated age group. The nominated players went through a rigorous selection process that included physical fitness test, profiling and background check, technical ability assessment, video analysis and mental toughness assessment through target matches and finally 20 players were selected for phased training.

The most interesting part of this project is its flexibility because it is mobile and training sessions are being organised at different cricketing venues like KCCA stadium, TMC ground, Aga Khan Gymkhana, KN Academy and Mansoura Cricket Ground, so that the young cricketers can get the training opportunities at their doorsteps.

Catch Them Young is a progressive and visionary initiative which can only expand itself into other cities of Pakistan and sustain itself, if it is supported whole heartedly by CSR sections of corporate sector, individual philanthropists, city associations, PCB, and all those stakeholders who want to associate themselves with not just glamour but development of cricket at grassroots in Pakistan.

sdfsports@gmail.com

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