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TMGA finding its feet in Navi Mumbai

over 4 years ago | Interviews

“In India, particularly Mumbai, he’s somewhere between royalty and godlike.” It’s an easy guess; Middlesex chief executive Richard Goatley is obviously speaking of none other than the Little Master himself, Sachin Tendulkar.

Goatley was alongside the legendary Tendulkar in January at a significant juncture for the Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy: the launch of a new academy in the former India batsman’s home city of Mumbai, where he learned the game and then conquered it by lifting the Cricket World Cup in 2011.

While TMGA, a 50/50 venture between Middlesex and Tendulkar, has run four-day training camps in India and London since its inception in 2018, the new programme at the DY Patil Sports Academy in Navi Mumbai is in for the long haul: participants have been enrolled for the year and are attending the programme four days a week. Open to participants aged 7-21, it’s rigorous, too. There are two blocks to the programme, with kids either training in the morning before school for two and a half hours, or opting for the same amount of time in the afternoon. Up and running with 160 kids, this is now truly an academy, having found itself a permanent home and no ordinary one either: the DY Patil Stadium has hosted two IPL finals.

“We’ve been working on this for two or three years,” says Goatley. “We’ve been in a partnership, trying to find the right locations and the right partners, and we’ve found that in Navi Mumbai with the DY Patil Academy.”

At the helm as head coach in Mumbai is none other than Vinod Kambli, who famously put on an unbeaten 664 with Tendulkar in a school game. With a Test average of 54.20 and two double centuries too, Kambli’s name adds further pedigree alongside Tendulkar’s. Furthermore, while there is not currently an explicit way for academy graduates to progress into the professional game, Kambli’s presence, alongside coaches with playing experience in domestic first-class cricket and the IPL, suggests that those capable of making the jump up will not be ignored.

“There’s no formal pathway there yet,” says Goatley. “At the moment they’re academy kids, working to be the best players possible. But with the people we’ve got knocking about as coaches, such as Vinod, if someone comes along who is exceptional, they’re not going to have a problem in progressing within the game with the eyes that are upon them.”

A pathway, therefore, doesn’t seem to be a matter of priority. For now the focus is on finding those who simply want to learn the game. “We’re just looking for kids who want to play cricket,” says Goatley. Some reflection of this arrives from the 10 spots for underprivileged children courtesy of bursaries, as well as emphasis from Goatley on the fact that the programme is for both boys and girls.

So, what does the programme actually look like? There’s the obvious focus on developing batting, bowling and fielding skills, and a quick glance at how a TMGA four-day camp runs is particularly noteworthy: one day is spent on the fundamentals, the next on bowling and facing spin, the penultimate on swing, and the final on developing your white-ball game.

But Goatley notes that over the course of the year-long camp, plenty of importance will be placed on health and fitness, understanding nutrition and as Tendulkar has said, “developing good global citizens”. It’s clear to see his imprint on this; for all his feats on the pitch, the socially conscious and philanthropic image that Tendulkar has cultivated off it has dominated since retirement. Just this month amid the coronavirus outbreak, as part of his role as a UNICEF ambassador, Tendulkar uploaded a video online detailing how to wash one’s hands correctly.

While his day-to-day involvement in the academy is bound to be limited, Goatley states that Tendulkar’s involvement goes beyond the name, with his influence in developing the programme key. “There are many figurehead academies where players don’t really get involved. Sachin is very much sleeves rolled up and getting his hands dirty.”

There’s still work to be done in living up to the ‘global’ in the title. Goatley adds that the Mumbai academy intends to add another hundred students, and there remains the aim to build on the work being done in the country and back in the UK, too. The Middle East is also signposted while “markets that aren’t very established in cricket” are to be looked at too.

“I think it’s fairly unique to have a professional club set-up with an established player,” adds Goatley. “We hope we’ve got a world-leading programme.”

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