AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
Goa Cricket Association (GCA) president Suraj Lotlikar has seen the transition of cricket in Goa as a player, administrator and office bearer. At 46, he has seen the highs and lows of the game and now wants to build a pedestal on which aspirations of youngsters will translate into stardom.
“I started playing cricket at a very young age and played on all the cricket grounds in Goa. Cricket then is different from cricket today. In those days we travelled by bus or train and were given vouchers as daily allowance. Nobody complained. Players practised literally twelve hours a day to develop their skill,” says Suraj whilst recollecting his days as a player.
“Today cricket is a white collar profession. Players of today calculate how many matches they have played and how much they are supposed to get. That hard work and dedication of the past is missing and this is the transformation I am seeing,” admits Suraj when explaining the switch in mindset today.
Hailing from Verem, Suraj’s father worked for the military and it was his mother who tended his growth along with his sister. From a cricket player in Goa to assistant to former GCA president Chetan Desai to Mukesh Ambani’s blue eyed boy, Suraj is unassuming and it is this character of his that will help him realise his dream of creating a platform that will pitch players from Goa to the main stage.
“Our first priority will be to build a stadium which I am sure will complete in this term because of the dynamism showed by our Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. He says a few things and delivers through his enthusiasm. Once the stadium is built, an academy will be set up for the boys; an academy that will be used as a stepping stone to produce stars,” professes Suraj as simplicity outlines his expressions.
“Goa is producing some great women cricketers. We had boys who nearly made it to the Indian team. We will be working on a strategy that they make it. Those days of dreaming are over now,” says Suraj as he explains how the setting of the Directorate of Coaching and Development was formed to accelerate the process of nurturing stars.
Suraj was the victim of attacks by opponents in GCA as the poll schedule was announced. They first said the elections were vitiated; they then claimed he was not eligible to stand and as the elections approached the accusations kept heaping up. Suraj never reacted.
“I knew from the beginning what my stand was. I had studied the legal aspects and I had Chetan Desai and Vinod Phadke’s solidly behind me. They know cricket better than anyone in Goa and that is why I let my opponents talk. We just concentrated on winning with an open heart,” admits Suraj.
Suraj was declared elected unopposed on Sunday and despite the ease with which he won, he thinks let bygones be bygones and carrying negativity is not the way forward.
“I always believe that once the elections are over, the panel that won should not be arrogant and instead be humble and take along forward the losers for the development of the game. The game cannot be a loser after elections,” believes Suraj.
“The party that loses should not be bitter. They should learn to accept pain and support the panel that won through constructive criticism. I believe in carrying all together for the good of the game. This attitude in life has helped me through,” confesses Suraj.
“Once the new BCCI committee is democratically elected, I think the role of the COA will be over. The COA was mandated to see that the Lodha Commission recommendations were implemented and not to run BCCI and therefore I believe we will have no financial problems in relation to construction of the stadium or work towards implementation of projects to enhance the standard of play,” assumes Suraj.
“Vinod and Chetan are highly connected in BCCI and they will help iron out any roadblocks if any appear,” added Suraj.