Cricket: Learning the pro way in India inspires Singapore youth player Jeevan

Jeevan Santhanam plays for Singapore's Under-16 team and hopes to pursue a career in the sport.
Jeevan Santhanam plays for Singapore's Under-16 team and hopes to pursue a career in the sport.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Over three weeks in October, national youth player Jeevan Santhanam lived and breathed cricket during a stint at India's National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.

The 14-year-old, who plays for Singapore's Under-16 team and hopes to pursue a career in the sport, said it was truly an eye opener that showed him what it takes to play at the highest level.

"I would definitely like to go on more trips and attachments like this," said Jeevan, who studies at Raffles Institution.

"Going to places like England, Australia or Sri Lanka, teams that play first-class cricket, will show me how much sacrifice and effort I need to put in, if I want to make cricket a worthwhile career."

Jeevan was one of Singapore's two representatives at the training camp, which was held in Bengaluru from Oct 8 to 31. The other was women's national captain Shafina Mahesh, 20. The camp's participants consisted of 58 young players from 19 Commonwealth countries such as Namibia, Mozambique, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago and Nigeria.

Jeevan told The Straits Times: "I was only there for 23 days, so I can't say that I'm completely different or it has changed me as a person.

"But I think the intensity of my game has changed dramatically, and I am starting to understand the sport better."

Jeevan, a left-hander who is 1.77m tall and weighs 68kg, said he enjoyed the training stint as there were familiar faces among the group, mainly players whom he had previously met at other tournaments.

He was also bowled over by the experience of watching the Vijay Hazare Trophy final between Kartanaka and Tamil Nadu. The limited-overs domestic competition features state teams, with five-time winner Tamil Nadu the most successful team in the contest.

The youths were among some 4,000 fans who packed the M Chinnaswamy Stadium to watch the action as Kartanaka won by 60 runs, with half of the 22 players having previously represented India.

"From the game I could see the intensity and the importance the players brought to the game," said Jeevan.

"Some of the players are national-level players, so you could see their quality and professionalism."

Jeevan also managed to meet Indian cricket luminaries such as Rahul Dravid, K.L. Rahul and Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the camp.

In Singapore, Jeevan trains at the Singapore Cricket Association's (SCA) academy and is one of the youngest players in the SCA Club League, where he turns out for the Singapore Recreational Club.

The young cricketer, who hopes to make the Singapore national team or even play in the professional Twenty20 Indian Premier League, added: "Playing in the open league gives me exposure to different types of players.

"The older players bowl faster but they're not as fit as the Under-19 or Under-16 players, so they play a different type of cricket, relying on their experience."

Jeevan's father S. Santhanam, who plays for Millenium United Cricket Club in the league, said he has seen a visible transformation in Jeevan since his return from India.

"Three weeks can't change him 100 per cent but he learnt a lot from the trip, in terms of techniques with bowling, and I can see changes in his game," said the 44-year-old.

"His confidence level has also gone up. It's also good that he is sharing what he has learnt from the trip with his (teammates), so he is almost like a bridge to transfer this knowledge to them."