Gatorade, a PepsiCo brand, announced the launch of the 2009 edition of its hunt for the next pace bowling sensations of the country. The initiative, called the Gatorade Pacers 2009, hopes to build on last year’s success, in association with MRF Pace Foundation.
Sucheta Govil, executive director, innovation and business development, PepsiCo India, told the media at the press meet, “We chose to undertake this initiative for cricket as this is a sport which is very critical for this country. Through this campaign, we not only want to reinforce the scientific credentials of our product, Gatorade, but we also aspire to take the country's bowling talent – by providing them sufficient coaching in the MRF Pace Foundation through cricket greats like Srinath and Sekar – to the next level.”
The campaign was initiated in 2007 by roping in Javagal Srinath, former Indian pace bowler, and TA Sekar, one of the leading fast bowling coaches, as the selectors. Sekar was appointed the chief selector of Gatorade Pacers.
This year, the talent hunt is expected to touch base with more than 5,000 aspiring pacers in the under-15, under-19 and under-22 categories. More than 2,000 schools, colleges, sports clubs and state cricket associations of the country, across the seven cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Pune, will be part of the hunt.
Last year, the campaign saw the participation of more than 3,800 aspirants from a total of 1,200 schools, colleges and cricket associations. Out of all the participants, 10 young men were selected for training. Some of them are now exploring their luck and careers with state teams for the Ranji Trophy.
In the year of its inception, the campaign had 300 aspirants from 600 schools in four cities. Out of those selected, one bowler was selected in the Rajasthan Ranji team last year; two are probables for Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders this year and one more has been with the Tamil Nadu under-17 team ever since.
Speaking on the occasion, Srinath said, “The IPL, with its run friendly format, got me really worried about the fast bowling fraternity of the country. I think it's high time we sent some support to our pacers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. Therefore, this initiative by Gatorade is increasing in significance year after year."
Talking about the brand fit, Srinath said, “Things like sports science play a huge role in the career of a cricketer. So, we need to be extra careful of what goes into our body. It is really important today to take care of the physiological side of the game. And this is where Gatorade comes in.”
The selection procedure will see two bowlers being selected in the three categories – under-15, under-19 and under-22 – from each city for the semifinal round. Thus, a total of 28 bowlers will be selected to go through a structured selection session to be conducted by Sekar, sports fitness expert Ramji Srinivasan and Gatorade master trainer Nisha Verma at the finals, which will be conducted in Delhi on February 3-4, 2009.
Though aspirants can just walk in at the venue to try their luck, officials advise them to register at the website, Gatorade.co.in.
Sekar, while talking about what makes the Gatorade initiative different from others, says, “In this campaign, we do not just evaluate the bowlers on the parameter of speed. We also take into consideration the three factors which most affect the professional career of a pace bowler – action, fitness and potential of the bowler."
Govil says that the team does not believe in investing in mass media for the campaign, but will make good use of its funds by putting it to use on the ground level to provide the selected pacers with the best training.
The Gatorade team has also come out with a plan to provide refresher sessions to the winners of the earlier contests.
Also present on the occasion of the launch were the two winners of the 2007 talent hunt, pace bowlers Ravikant Sharma and Abhishek Singh, who are in the probables list of the Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders, respectively.