On a night steeped in nostalgia, banter and gratitude, cricketers spanning generations went down memory lane. Two sets of players representing different generations took the stage. The first, moderated by Sujith Somasunder, brought together GR Viswanath, Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny and Sadanand Vishwanath. Then, Rahul Dravid, also the BUCC president, shared the stage with Anil Kumble, KL Rahul and Karun Nair.
When the initial experience turned lessons for life
Keki Tarapore sir roped me in for BUCC when I was in class 10. I thought I would take over the gloves but there was a 75-year-young wicketkeeper Ramanathan. He said you have a long time. At his age, he would dive around as well, he was such an inspiration.
I made my debut for BUCC in 1973 in a second division match. Dr. K Thimmappaiah was the captain and Tarapore his deputy. BUCC were five down with less than 50 runs on the board. A 57-year-old Thimmappaiah and Tarapore, five years his junior, were at the crease and the two giants of the sport scored half-centuries and won the match for us. It was inspiring to see them play.
Matches in club cricket weren’t rivalry between players but between clubs. As a youngster, I played for Spartans, which was in the third division while other teams like Swastic Union and BUCC were first division sides. Spartans didn’t have big names but they picked talent well. One match, (playing for City Cricketers) we won against Bangalore Cricketers and I scored 150. The confidence I got from that knock was brilliant. It gave me a big boost.
In our days club cricket thrived. We had 5,000-6,000 people coming to watch at the St. Joseph’s College hostel ground. The atmosphere was amazing.
The advantage of playing club cricket was that you got to meet and interact with a lot of cricketers. We started our club careers by scoring (recording scores) during matches. We would go on a bicycle or bus to the ITI ground and would be handed scoring books and even taught how to do scoring. Those were lessons for life.
The changing dynamics in club cricket
While I was playing for Young Cricketers, many players went to other clubs for better opportunities. I felt, that if I bowled well and made runs, it didn’t matter which club I played for. My loyalty was towards Young Cricketers and I wanted to play for the country and state from there. But that has changed now. Club cricket culture is diminishing and academies are thriving.
There is a general feeling that you will get picked for the state team if you play for a particular academy. That notion should go. Talent should be encouraged and recognised irrespective of the club or the institution they play for.
In Mangaluru where I grew up, we swept the cement pitch, put the mat and then rolled it up after practice. Those small things taught us to respect and love the sport more. That culture was passed on to us by our seniors but unfortunately, we did not get an opportunity to pass it on to the next generation. That is because, we have better facilities now. Like Kumble sir said, it is important to play club cricket because of the learning curve.
The dynamics have changed. It’s not that they (the current generation) do not want to play (club cricket) but look at the amount of cricket they play otherwise. It becomes difficult to come back and play for the club. For me, I love the buzz and the vibe of club cricket, the camaraderie and friendships. That’s why I wanted to repay to the game. We have to be realistic about current cricketers playing club cricket. That said, it is important to be involved in the club or stay interested in what they are doing. That is inspiration enough for young cricketers. Even if you are unable to play for the club, volunteerism is important.
The blurring lines between cities and mofussil areas
I don’t think it should make a difference whether you are from the city or small town, although I think the facilities vary. At the end of the day, the talent should reign over everything else.
Earlier, it was difficult for mofussil players to break through. If you look at the history of Karnataka cricket, a lot of players who have represented India were from Bengaluru. (Javagal) Srinath was perhaps the first one to come from Mysuru and play for India. A lot has changed since then. If one comes from tier II cities, he inspires others.
The line between Bengaluru and other cities is thin. Even in the Indian team you have a lot of players from tier II and III cities. If you have the talent and determination it doesn’t matter where you come from. A classic example is Sunil Joshi. He would leave home at 4 am, travel for two hours to get to practice.
Age-group cricket vs club cricket
These days everything is about age-group cricket. In club cricket, you have senior players and learn from them about cricket and life. That should come back because young players will mature faster.