Today, CCA based in Cupertino, serves 200 children locally. Buch says, “We have built the academy using some guiding principles. We offer small class sizes with 11-12 children per class. Experienced retired players are invited to come here, and provide coaching to the children.” In the past, the Academy has invited Larry Gomes, Imran Khan, Javgal Srinath, Venkataraghavan to spend time with the children. In a few weeks, they are expecting Ajit Tendulkar to come and coach for a few weeks. The coaching by ex-players is held during the spring, summer, and fall. Through the year, other parent coaches fill in the gap, and help the players improve their cricket skills. Shanthi Naresh, a parent volunteer says, “My husband Dushyant and I played college-level cricket in India, and after our son started playing cricket here, we have helped coach the children. Now, our breakfast and dinner conversations revolve around cricket, and CCA-related activities.”
The players are organized into teams based on their age level. Three teams, U-11, U-13, and U-15 teams play league matches locally through the year. Once a year, they compete against teams from other parts of the country for championship trophies.
CCA training focuses on all-round development of the players – coaching from experienced players to improve technical skills, year-round local league matches, and exposure to national-level tournaments. Physical conditioning and practice at the nets becomes a year-round activity.
CCA is also making several efforts to promote cricket in the local schools, by providing complete cricket kits to the students. Also, some players have started cricket clubs in their schools using the support from CCA. With this kind of encouragement in several spheres, it is not surprising to see the commitment from many players.
Arsh Buch, an eighth grader, says, “In last year’s championship game for the U-15 age group, I was selected as the ‘best player.’ In that game, I dropped a catch, but managed to get the player ‘run out’ by throwing the ball to the crease accurately. That was so exciting. I play as an all-rounder for my team, and we won the championship trophy last year. My interest in cricket started when I played in Ahmedabad during summer vacations.” Aditi Krishnapriyan tells a similar story. “I played cricket in India for the first time, and then, my grandfather taught me a lot about cricket too. I keep wickets for my team here, and I enjoy the increased concentration that is required on the field when I play matches. My favorite player is Adam Gilchrist,” she says immediately, when I ask her. Krishnapriyan is one of the few girls on her co-ed team, and has proven her abilities on the field by being adjudged ‘best fielder’ in national-level tournaments. Hemant Buch says that they offer coaching for boys and girls, though few girls have used that opportunity so far.
All the players who take part in CCA’s activities have become enthused about cricket, and play the game on their video consoles too. They watch matches on television, and are trying to develop and learn about a game that is not part of the mainstream here.
“The players are still young, and do not feel the disconnect between cricket and mainstream sports yet,” says Naresh. “But, I try and talk to my co-workers about the game to educate them. The easiest way to do that is to tell them that cricket is similar to baseball. That peaks their initial interest and then we start talking.”
CCA’s movement to popularize a game that few Americans watch has been successful at many levels. For their pioneering efforts, they have won awards in the areas of Youth Development and Marketing from the International Cricket Council. CCA teams are celebrating their recent victory as the national champions at the U-11, U-13, and U-15 age levels. After this victory, they are gearing up for their summer 2007 cricket camp, and expect Ajit Tendulkar, Sachin Tendulkar’s brother, to arrive here soon to coach the players.
For many Indian-American youngsters, this is an opportunity to field, bowl and bat, learning a game that is forever enshrined in the hearts and minds of Indians all over the world.
July 22 through end of August. Cricket camp with Ajit Tendulkar. Cupertino, San Jose, and Fremont. Schedule and registration information available at (408) 777-9983 or visit www.calcricket.org