The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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This Puja, cricket calls kids Down Under

A trip Down Under to join the nets at the sports camp where cricket greats like Shane Warne and Mark Waugh once learnt their game; a trip to Melbourne Cricket Ground; a chance to catch a glimpse of the continent’s unique natural beauty. A skiing holiday to Switzerland, a nature and adventure camp in France and Spain… for kids only.

If you’re eight to 18 years old, hop on to the holiday bandwagon. Trailblazers, an environmental company in Mumbai, expanded into the arena of adventure holidays for kids in 1999. Since then, it has taken along nearly 400 youngsters on trips abroad. Now, it’s calling a few children in Calcutta. Although the prices are prohibitive — staying in Swiss chalets and French chateaux does not come cheap — the concept is sparking considerable interest.

The first one on offer is the cricket coaching holiday to the Australian Sports Camp. The 11-day sojourn starts September 30, during the Puja holidays. It involves staying in lodges at the camp in Melbourne, “intensive cricket coaching” (30 hours in five days), with modern techniques, matches with local schools, sightseeing and shopping. Plus, the promise of a celebrity visit to the camp.

“We’re not aiming to teach them cricket in five days, but to show them the way forward, through the correct techniques,” says Ranjan Biswas, managing director, Trailblazers. “The point is for them to know that they can cope by themselves, without their parents, and have fun with their peers.” And there is a “guarantee” of safety, with one Trailblazer employee for every 15 children and several coaches at the camp itself. The sports kits come from the company and the evening entertainment comprises games and quizzes.

But with a price tag of Rs 1.39 lakh for under-12s and Rs 1.49 for those above, it’s aimed at a select few. Although most schools are still reluctant to accept the offer, parents, or at least those who can afford it, are enthusiastic. While Aban Confectioner, principal of Birla High School for Girls, allowed Trailblazers to make a presentation to the kids, Anjali Razdaan, principal of Lakshmipat Singhania, sat through a presentation for the parents.

At Birla High, the two nature-adventure holidays on offer were a trip to Mumbai and its rural areas during the Pujas and one to Spain and France next summer. “The children are obviously very excited. But most parents can’t afford it. That’s why we asked for an Indian option. There is a lot of interest for that,” says Confectioner.

The main concern of the four sets of parents who had gathered at Lakshmipat Singhania was safety. One mother explained how her 10-year-old son was so excited, he had asked his father to “take along the cheque” to the meeting. Another said her 11-year-old son couldn’t stop talking about the cricket camp in Australia.

Although principal Razdaan would like an emphasis on nature, she’s in full support of the foreign holiday concept. “Trailblazers has been doing this for a while. So, they have the experience,” she said.

Babita Sehgal’s eight-year-old, cricket-crazy son is a student at Arun Lal’s coaching camp. She wants him to avail of the opportunity, even if it means no family holiday. “My husband will go along, although parents are not allowed inside the camp. It’s for peace of mind.”

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