Indian’s reputation as a superpower is nothing new to the cricketing landscape. However, their profile in indoor cricket is still in the minority and development of the sport in its infancy, compared to its dominant older brother. This time around they are determined to make an impact at another Indoor World Cup and raise the exposure of the game in their country.
They have never been short on sponsors and this time have Petromann Events on board and have a well-known brand ambassador to help fly the flag for them in 1983 World Cup winner Sandeep Patil. Taher Ali Khan, the former UAE outdoor coach, is the team’s head coach and prominent UAE businessman Anis Sajan is a mentor to the side. He is a very passionate investor in indoor cricket in the Emirates.
They have made it clear they are serious about performing at this tournament, improving from their Plate victory at their last outing (fourth place) and exposing the indoor sport to a new generation of fans and players. This helps with the vast majority of the squad being based in Bengaluru, the central location for indoor sports in India.
In the lead-up to the tournament, I spoke to Milind Punja, board secretary at the Indian Indoor Sports Federation, and Dhanush Bhaskar, the team’s vice-captain, about their preparations for the tournament and development of the sport (IIC).
AK: “How has preparation been going? Has the team been getting together?”
IIC: “The preparation has been going well. The players have been together for more than two months now. In July there was a “World Cup probables” camp. The team was announced on 4th August and since this time have been training together.”
AK: “Have there been any practice matches or internationals?”
IIC: “Not recently. The Indian National Championships were played in May. Apart from the last World Cup in New Zealand back in 2014, there have been no further international matches.”
AK: “How would you describe the make-up of the side?”
IIC: “The team has a perfect balance of youth and experience in our opinion, and the senior players have helped to integrate the new players into the set-up.
“A few players have performed well before and know the rigours of such a tournament;
“Dhanush Bhaskar, the vice-captain, has been in the side since the 2011 World Cup in South Africa and was instrumental in the team’s first ever World Cup wins against Sri Lanka and England. He was part of the side that finished fourth at the previous World Cup and claimed the Plate title, whilst also being the third highest run scorer at the tournament. He led India to a 4-1 series win over Sri Lanka in 2012 and was also part of the Tri-series team in Colombo against Sri Lanka and Australia, where he claimed a man of the match award. One our most consistent players.
“Nikal Fakruddin Silar has been an integral part of the side since 2013 and was a top 30 contributor (that means overall score for a match) at the previous World Cup.
“Mohammed Khizar Ahmed is making his first appearance at the tournament for India. His all-around abilities are expected to be a big plus for us. In the 2014-15 season, he played in the Dubai Premier Indoor Cricket League (considered to be a reasonably competitive league in the Emirates under the direction of Sajan).
“Vijay Hanumantharayappa has been part of the side since 2012 and fielding is at a considerably high level; a big advantage for us in such an environment.
“Yathish Channappa has been part of the side since 2011. He grabbed man of the series and best bowler awards in their bilateral series against Sri Lanka in Bangalore in 2012.
“Suraj Reddy is also making his first appearance at the tournament. Apart from being a useful bowler and batsman, he is also the team’s first choice wicketkeeper.”
AK: “Have any players played first-class cricket before or currently?”
IIC: “Dhanush Bhaskar has represented Kanartaka at the age-group levels and currently plays in the Kanartaka State Cricket Association (KSCA) League, where he is a top-order batsman. Nihal, a top-order batsman as well, has previously played in the Malaysia Premier League, and also played alongside Dhanush at the age-group level for Kanartaka. He currently plays in the KSCA Premier League.”
AK: “What is the coaching and management set-up like?”
IIC: “Taher Ali Khan is the head coach. He has some great experience, having previously been the head of the UAE National Side from 2003-04. He also coached the Indian indoor team in 2010 and has recently taken over the side again in 2014.
Anis Sajan (UAE businessman and managing director of conglomerate Danube Group) is the mentor to the side. He owns the Danube Tigers, Danube Lions and the Sagittarius Strikers cricket teams (the Strikers played in the only version of the Masters Champions League T20 tournament held in the UAE in 2016).”
The World Cup
AK: “What are your expectations of the side this time around?”
IIC: “We have bettered our performance each time we have played, from beating Sri Lanka in a series in 2012 to winning the finals of the plate at the last World Cup. Again we are looking to do the same here and a semi-finals spot is not beyond us.”
AK: “Who are you expecting a challenge from?”
IIC: “For sure Australia and New Zealand will be tough competitors. Although we have given them a fight before and its early stages for India in indoor cricket. We are starting to catch up so expect a better fight this time around. The Aussies have been dominant in the past and we hope this World Cup is not the same as the gap continues to become narrower.”
The Indoor Cricket landscape
AK: “How does the indoor cricket environment in India work?”
IIC: “Indoor Cricket in India is very much in its development. It’s a growing sport. This will be the third World Cup for India under the Indian Indoor Sports Federation (IISF), being six years in total. The sport is catching up.
“At the IISF we are looking forward to more sports lovers to come in and open arenas throughout India. This would be the right time to start investing in the sport. The state of Karnataka has a few arenas (such as the XLR8 in Bengaluru, Pune etc.). Apart from that Bengal are very interested in being involved and have been part of indoor cricket since the beginning of the IISF.
“There are few parts of the country that play indoor cricket but don’t have WICF-standard arenas. There are other new setups which have not been recognised with IISF yet. Hopefully, they get the recognition they need soon so that the sport is able to reach more people.”
AK: “How does the player-funded model appeal to potential players?”
IIC: “In India, the player-funded model doesn’t work. As you would expect, there are a number of very good players that are outdoor cricketers and they don’t like to pay and play. They would need to be able to make a full-time career out of it like outdoor cricket which is a more lucrative pathway for younger players.”
AK: “How are you looking to get people involved in the sport against the popularity of outdoor cricket in India?”
IIC: “India is a cricket crazy nation. People love the sport here. Although the popularity of outdoor cricket is considerably higher the guys who have seen or played indoor have loved it and are interested in continuing with it. There have been a few people in particular who have been involved for quite a while and they try to recruit outdoor cricketers to come and try it out.
“The sport obtains exposure from major events such as the World Cup, which is when more people come to know about it. But we think the WICF and the respective countries’ boards can spread more awareness about the sport and its background so that more people get involved for the betterment of the sport and for the returns on the respective investment. Since the match duration is short and played with high-intensity people love it even more. It’s faster than a T20 or any other format.”
AK: “Will this sport grow? How?”
“IIC: People love the sport when they see and play it, as it faster than the T20 format and very exciting. There should be a lot of awareness being promoted in the age of social media etc and telecasting the international events on the main channels in the participating countries’ regions at the least. This is how people get to know more about a sport.
“Entry to major events such as the Olympics (or Commonwealth Games more likely) would be a boost as such talks are already (potentially) in progress and could be implemented at some point. Ideally, this would bring in greater viewership and get people to the arenas where matches take place, leading to greater revenue generation to the respective boards. This could help provide a better support system for the betterment of the sport.”
AK: “Is the team being sponsored?”
IIC: “Yes, this time around, Petromann Events are the sponsors. We have always had various other major sponsors in previous tournaments, which is very encouraging for us.”
AK: “I understand you also have a brand ambassador on board for the tournament?”
IIC: “Yes, this time we have a brand ambassador, Sandeep Patil. He is a former Indian cricketer and 1983 World Cup winner. He’s guy who has performed well for India and achieved a lot of things. His appearance and name would definitely help the sport reach more people.”
India Open Men’s Squad:
Girish Kyatnahlli Gopal (captain), Dhanush Bhaskar (vice-captain), Muhammad Kizr Ahmed, Yatish Channappa, Aries so Aziz, Sandeep Mayanna, Nihal Fakhruddin Schiller, Vijay Hanumnthrayppa, Surj Reddi Byrthy Naga Reddy, Santosh Anand, Syed Zain Ul Abdin
Coach – Taher Ali Khan
Assistant Coach – Jishanand Kottamala
Trainer – Vijay Agnel
Mentor – Anis Sajan
The Indoor Cricket World Cup is being played from 16 -23 September in Dubai, UAE
You can follow the Indian Men’s team on their Facebook page: Indian Indoor Cricket Team
Fixtures, results, and standings are available at http://wicfwina.spawtz.com/ActionController/LeagueList?VenueId=0
BLive will be streaming the finals from 23-24 September (https://blive.net.au).
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