Servicesí professional touch

Praise was justly forthcoming after Services cricket team's performance against domestic heavyweights Uttar Pradesh. The feel good moment however quite rapidly began to descend into the mawkish then the patronising.The side have even been described, possibly with good intention, as amateurs. Perhaps the visual image of the soldier-cricketer rolling their arm over en route the Ranji semifinals was too good a metaphor to let up.

It wasn't entirely accurate. The players themselves want to be seen as soldiers but also professionals. Cricket is one of the 34 sports -including boxing and shooting in which Services fields teams. The setup ó recruitment to the team and training thereafter is done with a focus solely on cricket. Indeed, recruited players undergo basic training and learn a trade, but their job is to be good at cricket. The discipline aspect only shows with players chose to focus on their game rather than grumble about what they don't have.

And unlike other teams in which players got the call up a few weeks before the start of the Ranji season, the Services team was formed as early as May last year. They thus had six months in which they trained together and gelled as a unit.

Five Services sports trainers conducted a 25-day fitness camp which was followed by a skill camp. That showed in how their pacers responsible for much of their success, handled their increased workload this season.

True the team doesn't get the BCCI grant and doesn't have a physio traveling but they are provided with the best sports medicine facilities in the Army medical institute in Delhi and Pune. The team isn't underpaid either. They are paid their BCCI stipends on top of their salaries and benefits. And while the team values the Ranji Trophy they don't limit themselves to it. They see it as a platform to play at the higher level. The IPL is not seen as a pariah. Says one player "We don't need sympathy we want respect. Before it was just that we were not performing. That has changed this season"

... contd.

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