Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar on June 9 launched their cricket training app Cricuru. Screenshot from a Zoom call interview.
Virender Sehwag has scored the fastest triple century in Test cricket. He reached the milestone in 278 balls against South Africa in March 2008.
Launching a cricket instruction platform took a bit longer – almost 17 years.
On June 9, the former India opener unveiled Cricuru with co-founder Sanjay Bangar, also an ex-India player and coach. Sehwag and Bangar were also pillars of the set-up at Indian Premier League (IPL) side Kings XI Punjab for some years.
“I was thinking about getting into online coaching since 2004/5,” Sehwag said on a Zoom call. “I spoke to a lot of companies and people, when I was playing, about giving coaching to cricketers sitting in North America, Europe, Australia or anywhere. Finally now, we are launching in 2021.”
Cricuru is a Masterclass kind of bouquet where users can buy different packs. It has 33 current and former players providing insights about technique and the mental aspect of being a cricketer. A.B. de Villiers, Brian Lara, Ishant Sharma, Dwayne Bravo, Axar Patel, Brett Lee, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues are some of the achievers users can learn from.
Such a star-studded faculty would not have come cheap. When Sehwag was asked who had funded the venture and what the plan to recover costs was, he admitted to the challenges of the task with characteristic humour.
“Initially we thought, ‘Arre ho jayega yaar, chaar-paanch crore me ho jayega. Utne me to app bhi nahi banta (Arre, it will work out in Rs 4-5 crore, but that's not even enough to cover the cost of making an app),” Sehwag said. “To bring these many stars on board is not easy, if you count their per day value and that they gave us two days. It usually costs you Rs 40-50 crore (cumulatively). But they are all my friends, so they gave us a better deal.”
Sehwag said the app is self-funded. “We all contributed. We also took some loan. There is no funding from outside. It was tough for us. I guess there was some benefit from playing IPL so many years. I could invest a bit in a business.”
Sehwag said many businessmen and venture capitalists were excited about the project, but Cricuru did not take them up on it. “I thought if I give away a stake too soon they would get it for cheap,” Sehwag said.
As for income, they aim to recover costs from subscriptions and potential sponsorship further down the road.
Bangar, variously India’s batting coach and assistant coach till 2019, was also keen on online training for young players. Once, he had invited Sehwag for dinner at his home in Mumbai. “What are your plans after your India stint?” his guest wanted to know. Some months later, Sehwag asked him about joining forces for the app.
“The idea that was going on in Viru’s mind was also going on in mine since 2013, when I started getting a lot more involved in coaching,” Bangar said. “I had also approached a lot of big guys in the app development business, but I never got feedback from them, not even a mail about their interest. So when Viru called, I told him I would be very keen as this is very dear to my heart and we could bridge a gap.”
Bangar said that as a Mumbai resident, he would see trainees travel long hours just to face a few balls in practice and go back home. There was a clear need for something credible they could source online, without having to make a long commute.
“I see guys who travel from Kalyan or Panvel, which are far off suburbs. They wake up at 5 in the morning, and are at the ground by 7. For that effort, they hardly (get) 20-25 balls to play,” Bangar said. “There are a lot of questions in their mind, whether they can develop their skills sitting in their own home, watching cricketers they admire. This is how the conception (of the app) was. After six to eight months of putting in a lot of hard work, we’ve been able to achieve what we are going to launch today.” Former Indian cricketer Sanjay Bangar.