For most Indians, baseball gives an impression about a game similar to cricket being played in the USA Played with a round bat. However, the game of baseball has been in India for good three decades and that professional baseball players in India even end up earning government jobs along with the prospects of representing the country at international level.
The baseball and softball teams in India hardly get any mention in the media for the country's obsession with cricket forces every sport to take a back seat. But things are changing, slowly and steadily. One of the veterans of Indian baseball, Ravi Kumar, is presently the coach of the American Embassy School in New Delhi for the last 34 years. Ravi started his career-long back and proudly emphasises the fact that he was one of the pioneer baseball players in the country. At 58, Ravi's passion for the sport reflects in his word. "I used to live in the American Embassy, and I closely followed the sport and picked it up. By the time I was 11, I was regularly playing baseball with the Americans. That's how I started my career in baseball and softball," says Ravi in an exclusive interview with
Ravi Kumar, Coach, American Embassy School in New Delhi
In 1976, Ravi played his first National Championships in Jaipur. And thus, he continued his journey, playing more national championships, invitational baseball-softball tournaments, as well as zonal championship and Federation Cups. His primary role in the field was that of a pitcher. While he was an active player, the American Embassy School approached him to be the coach in a three-year assignment. It was through this stint, he gradually fell in love with coaching, and given his experience in the sport, Ravi became a full-time coach. "I started playing baseball at a time when we didn't have the right equipment. I represented India in softball as well and went to play in Japan in the Asian Championships. Besides, I went to Manila, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and of course all over India. Today, at the American Embassy, we have all the facilities. I am glad to be a part of it and been through the transformational journey of the place," Ravi quips
Talking about India's potential in baseball, Ravi says, "I wish more people with professional knowledge would have come up in baseball. India has a lot of potential in baseball and softball, the players can look at professional leagues outside India. However, there's a dearth of professional coaching here. Despite the game started three decades ago in the country, the coaching system is still not grown to its fullest potential. I was one of the first school-level trainers in India. I have been the visual observer of baseball history in India."
Baseball Youth Development program by PLB school
Commenting on the grassroots development of baseball in India, Mr. Ravi Kumar states that, ‘’We already have a apex baseball federation and every state has a baseball state association, but the reason that they are not able to bring out the talent is because they are not able to receive the necessary support or having the avenues for sustaining themselves and produce the talent. In comparison to sports structure and systems outside, India lacks a strong club culture and as opposed to academies whose role is limited in making the players train. “If India needs to flourish in sports, we need to have the strong club culture more than an academy and my focus is to help build the club culture and people will develop in all paths at a club.To pioneer in the development and make sure that there is a great structure for the players to excel.’’
Ravi Kumar along with his teammates during his career as a player
Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak though the sports have taken a backseat, Ravi, who teaches baseball to more than 150 students at the American Embassy School, believes it will soon be back to its fullest potential. "There is a strong baseball culture that is growing in India. With teams all over the country, and Indian sports companies are entering into this space, I believe MLB could be a gamechanger in its own way. It has the perfect recipe for picking up talent and turning them into professional payers. I can now see a bright future for the sport to thrive in India."