A new domestic cricket season has kicked off with teams slugging it out in the T20 inter-state tournament and the more serious stuff will start with Ranji just before Diwali.
Each new season brings fresh hope for hundreds of players who put bt to ball and dream about making it. They love the sport and are seduced by the promise of instant fame and abundant riches. Success in cricket is the ultimate life-changing lottery ticket. An India cap provides membership to an exclusive group but Ranji at 40,000 rupees a day is not to be sneered at. Prominent coaches earn ten lakhs annually and in Delhi state, selectors are handsomely compensated.
With attractive cash incentives in place, pre-season preparation is intense. Players focus on getting their bodies in shape and spend hours in the nets to work on technique. Young hopefuls aspire for IPL contracts; senior pros play for pride. Aakash Chopra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar have switched sides while other battle-hardened veterans (Wasim Jaffer, Murali Kartik, Sunil Joshi) continue to turn up for their home states.
Like players, officials too are gearing up to meet new challenges. Our domestic structure may lack the competitive edge of Australia but there are enough indications that a major reform is round the corner. Most teams have specialist coaches and, in keeping with the current trend, a large support staff that includes mental conditioning experts.
Delhi has hired Manoj Prabhakar, while Mumbai have retained Pravin Amre, also the India A coach, for the fifth year running. Across the country, major investments are being made to improve the game, create infrastructure and upgrade facilities. Mumbai's Bandra complex is exceptional, so is Mohali and Jaipur boasts of an academy.
MP has impressive indoor nets at Indore and Himachal has walked the extra mile in supporting the players. It will take some time for us to match the professional management standards of English county sides, but Maharashtra is getting there quickly.