Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on Tuesday suggested that Mumbai Cricket Association can improve its talent pool by making its inter-college and inter-school competition a 15-player affair.
"How can Mumbai cricket step ahead of the opposition. For that, casually, me and my brother were chatting one day at home, I thought this would be the best forum to give MCA that suggestion," Tendulkar said after being felicitated by the MCA here. Tendulkar also feted child prodigies Prithvi Shaw and Musheer Khan on this occasion.
"When we have the inter-school and inter-college matches in that, instead of the 11-member team can we take 15 players. The boy who leaves his home everyday to play a match with a hope that he will do something, a lot of times he doesn't know whether he is going to play or not," he said.
The batting icon said that many children might not be as gifted as others but deserved a chance to play at least a few matches and get a shot at the opportunity.
"To avoid this situation, because for a small kid, Prithvi and Musheer are talented but many are on the border line. Many a times, the wicket may be a turning track and having a third seamer has no point. Sometimes there is only one seamer and there is a spinner bowling from the other end. In that there is no fault of the poor 12-year old fast bowler. But he is prepared to work hard for the entire year not knowing that he may not be picked.
"Giles shield and Harris Shield being knock out tournaments, you don't know how many matches you are going to get. I feel how every player can get minimum three matches, it could be Giles Shield, it could be Harris Shield, inter-collegiate, till the time the player starts earning and can stand on his own feet, till that time MCA should give support to these cricketers," he said. (Related read: Sachin named UNICEF ambassador for South Asia)
The former India captain said that it would also test the players as they would be facing different bowling attacks. "If we see the bigger picture, then in Mumbai itself about 10,000 children would benefit. The selectors will also get to see a lot of talent. The quality of cricket will also improve because constantly when the batsmen score runs, they would do it against quality bowling attack.
It wouldn't be like only one fast bowler is playing and others are spinners in the team. If somebody is good against spin bowling and not as good against fast bowling, he can score against the spinners and move forward or vice-versa. If it is a seaming track, why a left-arm spinner or an off-spinner should sit out the match," he said.
The 40-year-old said other associations in the country would also follow the footstep. "I think if we introduce this new thing and every player gets the opportunity to play then eventually Mumbai cricket is going to benefit and the rest of the nation will follow our footsteps. If about 10,000 children would benefit in Mumbai then you can imagine how many inter-school and inter-collegiate students would benefit in India. We are looking at a broader picture," he said.
Tendulkar's 14-year-old son Arjun was part of the Mumbai under-14 squad last year and he quickly said he was not giving this suggestion because of his son.
"I also know that maybe a question would arise somewhere that Arjun is playing that is why (this suggestion) and it is nothing like that. Many cricketers have played with me who had family support and the same way there were many who did not have the family support. In fact there have been a few people who have left home to play cricket and they have not been successful. But for the passion of cricket they left their homes and kept their passion alive," he said.
Tendulkar said that he would continue to support his son irrespective of his success and felt it is important to give opportunities to children.
"I feel whether Arjun becomes successful or not my support will anyway be there but what about those unfortunate children who may not have support from family and still a lot of them (parents) would be saying nothing is going to come out of cricket study and become an engineer, a doctor, I have a doctor at home, and there is nothing wrong in it," he said. (Also read: No shortcuts for Arjun, says Sachin Tendulkar)
"But it is all about how you give the small child the opportunity. If they fail after getting opportunity then there is no reason to continue but without getting the opportunity if you leave the platform, then MCA and me as a former cricketer I would say we would be lacking in our duties somewhere. We all hope that we would make more such special players, which will help us celebrate next year even better," he added.
Tendulkar, who played his last Ranji match against Haryana last month, also encouraged his team-mates to do well in the challenging time when there are not many senior players in the side.
"I give my good wishes to the Ranji trophy team. I know it is going to be challenging. A lot of senior players are not there but if you win the trophy in these challenging times then the satisfaction would be more and I will be the first one to come and celebrate with you," he said.
The Mumbai team is without the services of Ajit Agarkar who retired before this season, Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma who are in South Africa on national duty.
Tendulkar praised the Indian Premier League and said players from small towns are now coming to the national scene because of it.
"With the introduction of IPL, we have seen people coming from different parts of the country. Our captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is from a small town. Not many cricketers used to come from that area earlier. Nowadays we frequently see people coming from small towns," he said.
Tendulkar also wished his coach Ramakant Achrekar on his 81st birthday. Achrekar was also felicitated at the event.
He said that he practised at the MCA's Bandra Kurla (BKC) facility for many years. "A few years ago there wasn't the MCA BKC Club. And practising on monsoons was a little tough because there were no indoor nets. I used to actually go out on playgrounds and practice even while it was raining. But it was also a lot of fun. The new generation wouldn't be as lucky to play in the rains. While playing in the rain, the dirt goes in your eyes first and then you see the ball. It makes it challenging to focus," he said.
He also remembered the reception he got from the ground staff when he was practising for his last Ranji match here. "Cricket is like oxygen. I would be coming to get the oxygen doses from time to time at the ground. I will come and practice here," he said.
MCA president Sharad Pawar, after whom the BKC facility has been named, wished that Tendulkar's could give guidance to MCA and new generation after his retirement.
Pawar added that the younger generation has three role models --Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Anil Kumble-- not for their performances but the way they conducted themselves on and off the field.
Former Mumbai captain Madhav Apte said Tendulkar has consented to be part of a legends club,Â which had initially three players -- Vijay Merchant, Vijay Manjrekar, Vinoo Mankad and later had included Sunil Gavaskar.