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At Pujara’s nursery, hard work & dreams unlimited

India batsman trains budding cricketers free of cost at academy near Rajkot

Sayak Banerjee Published 16.03.20, 09:14 PM
Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara telegraph picture

Former captain Mohammed Azharuddin, at the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture earlier this month, had expressed his displeasure at how thousands of cricket academies in country have become mere business outlets, serving the game little. But there are exceptions and Cheteshwar Pujara is one of them.

Having carved a special place for himself in international cricket by focusing on technique rather than flamboyance, the Test specialist his doing his bit for the game off the field too. Pujara runs a cricket academy, which trains students free of cost and is financed entirely by him.


The Cheteshwar Pujara Cricket Academy, set up in 2015 at Taraghadi, 16km from Rajkot, trains 30-35 kids who dream to be successful cricketers like Pujara.

“It was a barren land out there, so we had to arrange hundreds of trucks of black soil to prepare the pitch,” recalled Pujara during an interaction with The Telegraph.

“Basically, we wanted to make sure that the underprivileged kids, or for that matter, any aspiring cricketer who wants to progress in the game, get the best of facilities.

“Everything starts from the grassroots. If you look at a place like Saurashtra, there is infrastructure for players who are part of the Ranji Trophy. But for the guys who are playing at the district level or even the ones who are already playing Ranji Trophy and want proper practice during the off-season, they don’t get the best of facilities.

“So we wanted to make sure that we provide them the right platform and right infrastructure where they can learn this game and get better at it.

“If you don’t practise on turf wickets and don’t play matches there, it’s not easy to hone your skills. There have been many boys who have gone on to play for the state in different age-groups from our academy.

“Our aim is to make sure that the Saurashtra team gets the best players. And you never know, among the guys who are doing well for Saurashtra, some of them may get into the Indian team one day. That will be one of the best rewards one can ask for.

“Monetarily, we are not charging them anything. Our cause or purpose is fulfilled if someone can make it to the next level,” Pujara explained.

Left-handed batsman Aarpit Vasavada, another significant contributor in Saurashtra’s Ranji Trophy triumph this season, practises there and is coached by Pujara’s father Arvind, who’s also the academy’s head coach.

The academy, spread over six acres, has five turf wickets, two cement wickets, a bowling machine and other necessary equipment. Not just free-of-cost training, kids get free transportation as well when they come for practice.

“When Cheteshwar was younger, we wanted him to train in Rajkot. Practice used to happen in a small place with a cement wicket, but match practice wasn’t possible there.

“We had limited facilities, so we didn’t want these guys to suffer and go through what we had to. Since it wasn’t possible to set it up in Rajkot, because of unavailability of land, we were concerned about the boys’ transportation to our academy. That is why we had to arrange for transport for them,” said Arvind.

Speaking of his involvement with the academy, Pujara said: “I try and pass on my experience to the kids. I also go and practise there myself.

“At the same time, when I am there or practising with players from the junior or senior level, I try and give my inputs… On what they should do to try and reach the top level or what are the requirements for younger players to get to the state level. Basically, the things they need to do on a daily basis to become successful.”

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