My friend, Pradeep Jadhav, who covers local cricket for various newspapers, moving from maidan to maidan during the weekends, was insistant that I shoudol inagurate his cricket coaching famp for boys between the ages of 5 and 12. I advised him to call a cricketer, past or present, the boys would be delighted to have one of them. But he said cricketers were a dime a dozen, he wanted me, I was his divine inspiration, etc.
So, yesterday afternoon, Pradeep Jadhav drove me to the Western Railway ground at Lower Parel. The inauguration was in the morning, but since I was busy at that hour, it was rescheduled for 2 p.m. I was an hour late, I am ashamed to say, and more ashamed on finding, when we reached there, the boys and their mothers assembled in front of the pavillion and appalauding me if I was returning to the pavilion after scoring an electrifying 100.
On the way, Jadhav had explained things to me. His late father, M.R. Jadhav, had been with the Bombay Police and the Bombay Police cricket team, starting as a sub-inspector and ending as assistant commissioner. He was a large man, a medium-pace bowler and a tailed batsman who could really slog. Passing Kennedy Seaface with its gymkhana cricket grounds, now unfortunately used more for marriage mandaps and vernacular Disneylands, he explained that when his father hit sixer, they went over the railway lines, across Queen's Road, and landed in the S.K. Patil Udyan.
There were other deeds of his father that he mentioned. No wonder Jadhav's club is now named after his father. The coaching camp is sponsored by Rizvi, builder and lok sabha candidate.
For the inaguration, I sat in a large leather chair, the audience sat in front of me in rows of more modest chairs. Amogn them was Mrs. Eknath Solkar. In his speech, Jadhav explained how all the cricketers had excused themselves, saying they were otherwise engaged, hence the choice had finally on me. So, the cat was out of the bag. In any case, I did not mind, it was for a good cause.
Some of the boys had makings of good cricketers. One five-year-old, glasses on his nose, gave a demonstration of googly bowling with a tennis ball. He flicked the ball about, from plam to foearm and back, like Anil Kumble, then bowled from a short run, disguising his action. Another, of identical age, stood firmly, wtching the ball as it was bounced in front if him not flicking his eyelids.
A third little fellow batted iwht his bat in the air, like Navjot Sidhu. It was explained that he had adoped this posture as he practised most of his cricket on his second-floor balcony, and tapping the bat on the floor would tenants.
I had to inaugurate the camp by breaking a coconut on an ground roller. I made three attempts and failed. I hope that is not an inauspicious sign. I do not think so. With such enthusiasm and dedication, the camp is bound to succeed. In another ten years, we should have a few new names to replace the present lot.