The Kalpesh Koli Memorial cricket tourney is a robust U-16 talent provider for Mumbai
The Kalpesh Koli Memorial Cricket Tournament (KKMT) is not an age-old event on the Mumbai cricket calendar. But its importance has grown with every passing year considering the cream of the city's under-16 talent plays this tournament.
This year is a special one for the New Hind Sporting Club-organised tournament, a landmark, silver jubilee year. Celebrations were kicked off by former India wicketkeeper Kiran More earlier in the month.
New Hind is a prominent club at Dadkar Maidan in Matunga (East), a few metres away from the fabled Dadar Union Sporting Club made famous by Madhav Mantri, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar et al.
1994: Batting icon Sachin Tendulkar addressing the gathering as chief guest of the tournament
New Hind had their own big names – former India wicketkeeper DD Hindlekar whose photo frame adorns the inside wall of the pavilion, Maharashtra pace ace Pandurang Salgaonkar, who very nearly played for India in the 1970s, prolific batsmen Vijay Bhosale and Vijay Mohanraj. Sachin Tendulkar's childhood coach Ramakant Achrekar too turned out for New Hind and figures in the Kanga League record book for carrying his bat through the innings, scoring 21 against Dadar Union in 1969. Gopal Koli was another star, who despite scoring heavily in local cricket, could play only two Ranji Trophy matches for Mumbai (in 1970-71).
2000: Future Mumbai batsmen Sahil Kukreja (left) and Sushant Marathe after their 459-run opening stand for MIG-Khar centre vs Kalyan-Ambernath at Matunga. Both scored double hundreds
In 1989, New Hind which featured in the senior division of the Kanga League, wanted to initiate a tournament for under-16 cricketers, who showed promise in the Mumbai Cricket Association's (MCA) summer camps. Cricketers from these camps didn't have a tournament to parade their skills in. Occasionally, at the end of the camp they would get one practice game to prove their worth.
After two years, the MCA granted New Hind the permission to conduct the tournament, in memory of Kalpesh Koli. Like father Govind, Kalpesh was a leg-spinner apart from being a fine fielder.
2001: Ex-BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur congratulates Rohit Sharma for his man-of-the-series performance
Kalpesh performed well in the GR Vishwanath under-14 cricket tournament (1990-91) and could have played for the junior Mumbai team. However, in a nasty twist of fate, Kalpesh was drowned while on a pilgrimage to Karla, near Lonavala. "I lost everything through Kalpesh's death, but I saw him in each cricketer, who played this tournament which was initiated in 1991," Govind Koli told mid-day.
Several future stars figured in the Kalpesh Koli Memorial tournament, right from Ajit Agarkar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma to young guns like Shreyas Iyer and Sarfaraz Khan.
2015: Suved Parkar of Kandivli centre en route his 65 against Mahul yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK
Sachin Tendulkar was already playing for India when the tournament began in 1991 but the batting icon agreed to be chief guest at the prize distribution ceremony of the 1994 edition.
The current tournament secretary Nagesh Thakur, who has been part of the 25-year journey, recalled how Tendulkar arrived as chief guest: "This may be the only instance when a chief guest jumped over the small wall of Dadkar Maidan to get to the prize distribution area."
Till 2002, the Kalpesh Koli tournament was played on a 45-overs-per-side basis, but later, the MCA decided on a two-day duration. The 16-team tournament is played all over the city.
"The then MCA Joint Secretary – Prof Ratnakar Shetty – organsied for the association to provide match balls and pay the ground and umpiring charges. This support from MCA continued for four years. Since 2004, only balls are being provided," said Thakur.
The tournament is ensuring good exposure to Mumbai's under-16 but there are hurdles. The organising committee has requested the MCA to bear the ground charges for this tournament, but that has yet to be granted. "The over-age players' issue is another problem we face and we expect MCA to resolve this as early as possible," added Thakur.