AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
“Sport is a platform to have fun; to enjoy ones childhood. It is impossible for a child to decide if he wants to be a sportsperson when he is young because there isn’t a platform in India where such decisions can be made. Generally, the focus is on some profession or the other. It is the anpadh (illiterate) who get into sports,” believes Ajay Jadeja, an Indian cricketer who will be difficult to forget.
“I ran away from the pollution in New Delhi. When it gets bad in Delhi, Goa is the place we normally fly to. My son wanted some net practice so I decided to take a chance and drive down to the ground to see whether I could give him some net practice,” says Ajay as he finds a seat next to former Goa Cricket Association (GCA) president Chetan Desai.
Ajay and Chetan first got to know each other in 1998 when the two were part of the Indian contingent that toured Sharjah. Then, Chetan was the team manager and Ajay was member of the India team led by Sachin Tendulakar.
“During a practice session, there was no refreshment for the boys. You ordered snacks for the boys and paid from your allowance money. You were different from the rest of the players,” Chetan reminded Ajay as the two sat to discuss cricket then and now.
“The job of a cricket selector in New Delhi is the toughest. There are some forty odd Supreme Court judges; there are High Court judges; there are ministers of the Central government and the Delhi government; there is the top bureaucracy of the country and all of them want one berth in the team for their kin. At the end of the day, that one becomes hundreds,” says Ajay as the two discuss the selection conundrum in cricket today.
“If a selector manages to pick a team in Delhi on merit, he will be the best India will have,” adds Chetan.
“Selection is one aspect; the other is the rush for passes for matches. You have to hand over thousands of passes because you have two governments in Delhi, you have the Army and the Navy, the courts, the police, the list is huge,” adds Chetan.
“Cricket has taken many steps back. There is too much emphasis on paperwork and somehow the game has been lost. But, it will come back now,” believes Ajay.
“Look at these boys playing now,” says Ajay as he watches the Goa and Pondicherry U-16 boys playing their Vijay Merchant trophy match at the GCA ground in Porvorim.
“This tournament will be an education on life to these boys. The players must be coming from different school set ups; from different regions of their State; from different customs. Tournaments like these are learning lessons of life for these boys and these lessons are the ones that determine the society of tomorrow,” thinks Ajay.
“Are you heading GCA now?” Ajay asks. “No, no,” retorts Chetan. “Then you are the kingmaker,” shoots back Ajay.
As Ajay is enjoying pleasantries with Chetan, his 17-year old son is being given net practice by former Indian cricketer Ashish Nehra and as dusk begins to set in, GCA sees a swell of crowds, all to have a glimpse of Ajay and Ashish.
The kings of good times never tire.