|The match in progress at Ronaldshay Park in Dr Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong on Wednesday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha|
Kalimpong, April 17: If you thought all boys in all localities in the country played only cricket, Kalimpong would make you think twice.
It has definitely made the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) think about popularising a sport that many in the country see as a religion.
Yes, Kalimpong likes soccer more than cricket, which is why the CAB, in collaboration with the United Veterans Kalimpong, is organising an under-17 t20 cricket tournament that started today.
The venue is the Dr. Graham’s Homes school ground. Four cricket academy teams are participating in the event, of which only one — Veterans Kalimpong — is from the hills.
The other three are Calcutta-based Bournvita Cricket Academy, Calcutta Cricket Academy and Howrah Union Cricket Academy.
Kanchan Maity, an A-level coach assigned by the CAB to promote cricket and spot talent in the hills, said the tournament is part of an exercise to popularise cricket in the hills. “The hills are known for football, but since the time we have been here, it has been quite apparent that there is an aptitude for cricket too.”
“I was here last year and conducted a few clinics, following which I picked eight players and took them to Calcutta in winter where they played the CAB under-14 league. A few of them, particularly the little leg-spinner Avishkar Sharma, fared very well. I think he picked up eight wickets in two 45 over games,” he said. The CAB is being helped in its endeavour by the UVK, which has former local cricketers among its members.
“The CAB had told us about its plans to introduce subdivision-level tournaments throughout the state, including the hills, sometime in May last year. They provided us with cricket kits worth Rs 50,000, and sent Kanchan to conduct clinics here,” said Sandip Jain, the UVK vice-president and a former cricketer from Kalimpong.
Jain said the tournament would be held on a larger scale next year and his association would do whatever it could to complement the efforts of the CAB.
“Our kids have talent in plenty, what they lack is professional guidance. Hopefully, this initiative will mark the start of unearthing cricketing talent in the hills.” One reason for the lack of popularity of cricket in the hills could be the lack of heroes. But then no player from the hills has ever played at the domestic level, like the Ranji Trophy.
The hills have had soccer heroes though. Dinkar Chhetri, the president of United Kurseong Football Club, was himself a soccer star. Urgen Lama from Kalimpong played for the Mohammedan Sporting Club in 1982.