Dilip Vengsarkar; Picture: Sudatta Mukherjee
Dilip Vengsarkar’s career had been overshadowed by giants like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. Even after retirement, Vengsarkar, despite his immense contribution as a coach over the past two decades, was almost never brought to the forefront despite his contribution to Indian cricket. The Vengsarkar Academy (previously funded by Elf) has launched a first-of-its-kind website in collaboration with RelTime. Abhishek Mukherjee explores the novelty of the website and the possibilities it can offer.
There have been Indian cricket greats who have given back to the sport to various extents; while the likes of Ravi Shastri and Sourav Ganguly have taken up the microphone, Rusi Modi and Aakash Chopra have used the pen; Sunil Gavaskar has done both, Kapil Dev had helped found a cricket league, while TA Sekhar, Sanjay Bangar and many others have taken to coaching.
During this period, Dilip Vengsarkar has been running a cricket academy, which is all most people know about him (barring his stint as the national selector). The Elf Vengsarkar Academy had started in the Oval Maidan in 1994, and has now spread to Mahul and Pune, attends every site multiple times a week, and is approachable to every student across branches. Almost all this has happened away from the media.
Over the years, the Academy has helped hone the talents of Ajit Agarkar (who had arrived as an opening batsman), Yuvraj Singh, Ramesh Powar, and Manan Vohra, along with several other domestic and Under-19 cricketers. Agarkar mentioned that the Academy has the best pitch across all grounds he has bowled on in Mumbai, while Robin Uthappa spoke about the excellent facilities at the ground.
Vengsarkar, however, has not stopped at that. In a collaboration with RelTime, a Norwegian (yes, you have read it right) organisation, Vengsarkar Academy has launched its official website in a function at Cricket Club of India (CCI) in the presence of the likes of Agarkar, Chandrakant Pandit, Praveen Amre, Raju Kulkarni, Sairaj Bahutule, Nilesh Kulkarni, Uthappa, Ajinkya Rahane, Dhanraj Pillay, and the man himself.
The obvious question that was brought forward was: how is this going to be different from websites for other cricket academies?
At http://www.vengsarkar.in, one can login and talk to the maestro himself — as well as other coaches — about the finer aspects of the sport; they can also ask questions about honing their techniques, and most importantly, they can upload videos of their own performances.
Uday Ghosh, the Managing Director of RelTime, said that Vengsarkar himself will look at the videos, and invite a group of 15 to 20 cricketers from around the country from the cricketers he gets to see, get them over to the Academy, and organise matches to prove their mettle. While this will still leave quite a few stones unturned in terms of talent scouting across the country, one cannot deny that the website will be a giant step forward for the same.
In an interview, Vengsarkar said that he has plans of expanding the Academy beyond the realms of Maharashtra if he gets support. Unfortunately, when asked whether there is any upcoming Indian fast bowler on the horizon, he shook his head in denial.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)