Transcript: Couch Talk with Vivek Narayan, USA U15 Cricketer

Couch Talk Episode 69 (play)

Guest: Vivek Narayan, USA U-15 Cricketer

Host: Subash Jayaraman

Subscribe to Couch Talk podcast on iTunes. Also available on TuneIn Radio and YouTube

RSS Feed


Subash Jayaraman– Hello and Welcome to Couch Talk. Today, we have the youngest guest on the show. Vivek Narayan, who is a Under-15 USA cricketer talks about how he got started on cricket, his training schedules, travelling to India on U-15 team, meeting VVS Laxman, his goals and his role models. Welcome to the show, Vivek!

Vivek Narayan– Thanks for having me.Vivek and Gavaskar

VN– I got started playing as a young kid with my dad and my brother, with a tennis ball in the front yard. I’d go to India, where I picked up on the game. When we went to New Jersey, there was good infrastructure than where I was previously in Indiana. I got started with coaching. Mainly, it was because my dad had a lot of interest. So, I’d watch games with him and I picked up on the techniques. That’s where I started.

SJ– You are an all-rounder, am I correct?

VN– I’m an all-rounder. I’m a leg-spinning all-rounder.

SJ– Tell us a bit about the coaching structure, the net-structure and the academy that you are a part of in New Jersey.

VN– I started about as a part of Dream Cricket with coach, Earl Daley. He played with Jamaica for many years, he started me off. I have also had Ashok Patel as my coach. He was the head of Gujarat Cricket Association  for 15 years, and he represented India. He has worked on my leg spin with me. Recently, I went on a tour with California Cricket Association to India. I’m a part of all these groups and I work with all these coaches on different things. I work three times a week.

SJ– Explain further. I’ve heard from friends who have played representative cricket in India, in u-15 levels, U-19, Ranji etc., where cricket is alive in the sense that they go to school in the morning and come back by 3 PM and then they have nets 7 days a week.

VN– Right. In this summer I went to Hyderabad to the St. John’s Cricket Academy, where VVS Laxman is from. The number of kids and the amount of work they put into it is amazing. They go in the morning and they start at around 6 am and they work until 8 am. Then, they go to school and come back and in the afternoon they have another session of nets. The amount of practice they get is just incomparable to what we get over here. It is just amazing because they also play many matches and there is so much match practice that it is hard to compete with them.

SJ– Is there a particular time of the year when you do cricket training, or is it a year-round thing? If you do, what is your time schedule?

VN– In the summer the past few years, I play for my club, USCA, – United States Cricket Academy. I try to get two matches a week on the weekend- 2 40 over games. In fall, when school starts, I go to the nets on the weekend and one day on the weekdays and I work on my physical fitness. I play other sports too to stay in shape.

SJ– The life of a teenager in the USA is different from the life of a teenager in India even though you might be pursuing the same goals. So, how does cricket fit into it? What are you trying to achieve, not just in terms of cricket, but overall? How does everything fit in?

VN– At least in terms of cricket, I figured that rather than trying to pursue something, I’d want to just keep improving, and improving and improving. Eventually, if I am good enough, something should come out of it. I should leave it at that rather than trying to set any goals because it is very difficult in the USA. Because, becoming a USA cricketer is not really a career. You just have to become better and better and hope it will work out for you eventually. I just focus on improving my skills rather than thinking about it too much.

SJ– it is interesting that you mention that being a USA cricketer is not a career.

VN– It definitely is not. There is no pay in it. You are never secure with the USA cricket. There is always something going on with the board. You can’t worry about that. You just have to continue playing and improving and it should work out for you if you are good enough.

SJ– The problems and the issues surrounding the mentioned board, the USACA, is quite well known. How does it directly affect you? Have you had a chance  to meet the senior cricketers and have any discussions on these?

VN– When I played for The Warriors Cricket Club, I had a teammate called Durale Forrest. He played for the USA and went to Hong Kong and all on tour. We would talk about it, and I did for quite a while. I thought “Oh, this kid is so-and-so’s son. He has so-and-so connections. How am I going to make it to the team?” It does trouble you sometimes that the best cricketers sometimes don’t get picked. Very often, that happens. Sometimes, an Indian guy will pick an Indian guy. Sometimes, a Pakistani will pick a Pakistani and a Guyanese will pick a Guyanese. Not always the best cricketers are picked. You can’t think about that. If you think about that, you aren’t going to get anywhere.

SJ– That sort of politics is existent in all cricketing nations. It is not unique in just the USA. Somebody from Baroda will pick somebody from Baroda. Somebody from Chennai might try to push someone from Chennai. That happens all over the world. What makes me wonder is what makes it more disheartening for you, coming from USA?

VN– It is more disheartening because it hurts the development of the game. People in the cricketing fraternity must be working together and try to promote the game in the USA rather than promote their own agenda. They have their own agenda, essentially. So, rather than working together, it is rather a clash, which is not the way it should be.

SJ– So, how often is an u-15 cricketer exposed to national team set-up?

VN– That is another problem. Last year, we didn’t have a tournament. This year, it doesn’t look any better. We don’t play together enough. There is not enough youth cricket in the USA. There just isn’t.  Last year, the u-19 tournament got cancelled. They keep rescheduling it and then it never happens.

The thing is, CCA does great work. We went to India. I got to know a lot more kids. I met new kids. They organized tournaments annually. They do a great job of bringing us together. They do a great job of taking us to India. The USCA club here is taking kids to Trinidad & Tobago. The bottom line is we don’t play together enough. There aren’t enough national tournaments. There is no infrastructure for age-cricket. Age-cricketers are expected to go to a club that either their father or uncle or cousin knows of, and play in it. Very often, what happens in that club is that the kid goes and fields for 40 overs, bowls one over and bats at no.11. Nothing happens, and then they get discouraged and don’t play any more.

SJ– You said you played for clubs over the weekend in 40 over competitions. Is it primarily with players of your age, or is it with everybody?

VN– We have to play in adult leagues. There is not enough leagues for kids.

SJ– Primarily play these matches in NJ, right? How has your experience been playing with the adults?

VN– A lot of them are expats and they come from India, Pakistan and the West Indies. They are very, very talented. You learn a lot. The way an Indian player might go about a game is very different from the way a West Indian player will in the same situation. You learn a lot in the sense that there are a lot of cultures playing the game. You learn how to bowl to different batsmen, and you have to learn to adapt. It is not easy. It is fun. I do wish that there is some more youth cricket.

SJ– Of course. The USA Youth Cricket Association is also trying their best. I suppose the main impetus at it has to come from the national organization, the USACA.

Going back to your club cricket itself, what is your relationship with the older cricketers? How do they treat you? Does it meet your expectations?

VN– Yes, they are very good. They mentor me and work with me. I have to say, my clubs USCA, Warriors, DreamCricket, and my most recent one CricMax, they have always given me a fair chance. Which is great of them and I appreciate it. They will give me opening batting [slot], send me in at 3, and give me 7/8 overs to bowl, and that’s very nice [of them].

SJ: Let’s talk a bit about your trip to India with the California Cricket Association. When was it, how long was the trip for, and what sort of matches did you play down there?

VN: The first game, if I remember correctly, was on December 21st.  The team landed on the December 20th, in Gujarat and we played until January 3rd.

SJ: That was all in Gujarat?

VN: Yes, it was all in Gujarat.

SJ: So when did you get to go to the St. John’s cricket academy in Hyderabad?

VN: I went there in August [2011]. My coach Ashok Patel, he arranged for me to be at St. John’s academy and I learned a lot there as well. John Manoj there, he was very nice and he gave me a chance to play.

SJ: You said it was your Dad that got you started in cricket. I believe you have a younger brother who also plays in the U-15 set up. So, can you speak about the influence of your family and your friends?

VN: My family, like any Indian family, is cricket nuts, fanatics. They love it. My dad is the one that started me, and he is the one that takes me to these coaching sessions, and it is pretty much because of him I’m where I am. My mom also drives me [to the grounds and coaching sessions] whenever she can. Initially, when we would spend the whole day watching an India ODI or something, she’d say, ”What are you doing with your day? Why are you wasting your day like this?” Later on, when I started playing cricket, she became very supportive and she’d take me to the grounds. This time when I went to India, my grandparents drove me to Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Anand. They have supported me a lot and without their help, I can’t do this all by myself. There is no way I could have.

SJ: It’s an interesting dichotomy – when you live in US, the quality of life is different and in some cases, better but when it comes to cricket, you look at your counterparts in India, their views and the avenues available to them are quite different, right?

VN: They are quite different but in some ways, the astroturf pitches, indoor facilities, they don’t have. There are thousands of kids competing, and one might get noticed and many go unnoticed. There are benefits [to be playing cricket in the US]. There are a smaller number of kids playing here. You’ll get noticed. You will get the attention. In India, there are so many kids that it becomes rather difficult.

SJ: What were some of observations based on what those kids were doing? You mentioned the many hours of practice they put in. How do they approach their cricket, and how you approach yours, and some of the things you might want to improve?

VN: Here, we are fed on a lot of 40 over games, and occasional twenty over game. We just don’t have so much practice [in the nets]. Personally, I’d bat very well for 20-30 runs and then, I’d throw it away.  I did not have the concentration. So, I feel in terms of skills, we might be able to compete with them but they are more disciplined, they always do their jobs, they are focused. In the batting front, you realize that with these kids, you have to earn their wicket. Very often, when kids from U.S. go, they will bat so well for 20 runs, but they will play a rash shot and that’s the end of that. These kids, you have to work for their wickets, their footwork was excellent. They are a lot more accurate [with their bowling] and we bowl a lot more wides. It was simple things like that. They just are more disciplined than us and are more focused on their game than we do.

SJ: What about the quality of the facilities?

VN: It is excellent compared to here. They have great outfields. They have turf wickets, sightscreen, ground staff etc. They have a lot more match practice, and the grounds are maintained. I remember, three years ago in an U-15 tournament here, a kid dove on the field and he cut his hand open on a bunch of broken beer bottles. That sort of thing will never happen in India. The grounds are manicured properly and it was nicely put together.

SJ: Well, you won’t see beer bottles in Gujarat anyway…

VN: Yeah! {laughs]

SJ: I met you last year at the meet-and-greet with VVS Laxman in New Jersey. You got an opportunity to spend some quality time with him. Was there anything specific that he talked to you about?

VN: I was just more in awe of him. He, along with these guys, Sachin {Tendulkar], Rahul [Dravid], Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag and Shane Warne have been heroes to us. So, I was mainly in awe of him. He was very inspirational, in the sense that, he told me to pursue, continue to play the game, and to love the game. It was a nice message and he gave me proper attention, and I appreciated it.

SJ: I remember the one thing he mentioned about how when he was 15-16 years old, he had to make a decision as to continue pursuing a cricket career or focus on his studies. He, with the help of an uncle, convinced his parents that he should continue with cricket for 4-5 years and see where it takes him. If nothing came of it, then he would start focusing on his studies in the medical field or whatever. So, is there something of that sort in your life too – a point you might come to when you say, “well, there is no point continuing cricket or, I have excellent motivation to continue with cricket?

VN: I think I like cricket too much for that to happen. Even if someone tells that I should stop playing cricket, I will never stop. I’ll keep on playing. I’ll go to the nets. Yes, I’ll have to focus more on studies, of course, at some point, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing cricket.

SJ: Do you envision a situation where you can take up cricket as a career? It is possible if you continue developing your skills and abilities and become a better cricketer, there are avenues now, where you are not restricted playing only within the USA national set up, but you can ply your trade anywhere in the world.

VN: Yeah, IPL and all, but there is a very small chance of that happening and I’d definitely like to try. As far as pursuing cricket, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I am focused on becoming better and see what happens. If I am that good, then something should come of it. I don’t think I should be focusing and thinking about that, yet. Mainly, I am focusing on becoming a better cricketer.

SJ: Okay, fair enough. You mentioned the names of the great Indian cricketers, and Shane Warne. Any one that is playing cricket these days considers them as their role models, inspiration. Do you have any specific cricketer that you wish to model you game on?

VN: Well, my two favorite cricketers are, Shane Warne – being a legspinner, you have to love Shane Warne. I’ve found him to tbe the most intriguing cricketer. I love watching him bowl, and you always felt something was going to happen. He was the most exciting cricketer. The other one is Sachin Tendulkar.  I really like the way he carries himself on the field. They are people that will say, Ricky Ponting is better than Tendulkar, or Lara, or Dravid or Kallis. Sure, they may very well be better than Sachin, but I really like the way he conducts himself, the way goes about his batting, and I really like how much discipline he has. It’s not just restricted to his batsmanship, I really like him as a human being also.

SJ: Fantastic. Wish you all the best. I hope you stick with cricket and cricket sticks with you.

VN: Sure, thanks for having me.

SJ: Thanks a lot, Vivek.

Download the full episode here.

Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman