At Delhi Colts, a 55-year-old club boasting names like Ashok Gandotra, Ramesh Saxena and Salman Khurshid, producing good cricketers is not distinct from creating decent human beings.
The student has grown into a cricket sage. His voice quivers but not his thoughts. He recalls scores of a match played four decades ago and reels off names from the past in a jiffy with precise details. Radha Krishan Tripathi’s journey, halted a few times for reasons beyond his control, is actually the saga of Delhi Colts, a club so different from the rest in the Capital’s cricket history.
Old timers have seen Delhi Colts create a distinguished spot for itself in local cricket. From the lanes of bustling Daryaganj, the club has traversed from the lawns of the Red Fort to the ground in front of Shantivan. At present Delhi Colts holds its ‘nets’ at a nondescript plot that belongs to Radhey Mohan Club opposite the Old Delhi Railway Station.
A small gate leads me to Tripathi’s world of cricket. Two cemented pitches, a ball hanging by a rope under a huge tree, a tiny room that serves as a resting place — very basic, but very essential for shaping a young mind. The structure has existed from British times and Delhi Colts is 55 years old with some fine achievements in the Delhi league and other local tournaments.
Tripathi, 70, wife Suman and son Anirudh, a level II coach from the BCCI, are the dedicated servants looking after the club. Suman raises finances through Criswim, a sports management unit. “I love cricket because of guruji (Tripathi) and there is no greater joy than these smiling faces,” Suman points at the group of youngsters who are engaged in serious training in most humid conditions.
Delhi Colts draws its strength from a disciplined manual that the clubs follows. The focus is not just on playing and winning. Tripathi, a physical education teacher and a yoga expert, has looked to create “decent” human beings. “At Delhi Colts, we look at learning the hard facts of life through cricket. The game teaches you to be competitive and I feel happy when a student lands a job because of the lessons learnt at the club. We just don’t teach cricket. We also teach values with a vision to enable the player make a place in this fiercely competitive world,” says Tripathi.
The 2008-09 season was one of the best for Delhi Colts when it won the Super Plate 1 Trophy in the DDCA Super League. The club was only living up to a rich tradition of promoting healthy cricket which once saw India off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna play a few matches for Delhi Colts after his retirement. “I remember playing some games for them. It was a pleasant experience,” said Prasanna.
Among some illustrious names who wore Delhi Colts colours were Test batsmen Ashok Gandotra and Ramesh Saxena and current External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. Few know that junior star Unmukt Chand was coached initially by Tripathi, who also presented him the opportunity to compete in the DDCA League under the banner of Delhi Colts. Rohit Sahni, Bodh Raj, Manav Mehra, Lovkesh Mathur, Kamal Passi are some of the distinguished cricketers from the club.
At Delhi Colts, Tripathi ensures the spirit of the game is never compromised. Passion for the game is a must to become a member of the club. “I look at overall development of the individual with emphasis on sound character. We never insist on a fee from our members. Many play free because Delhi Colts is a family where knowledge is gained by having fun too,” says Tripathi, who once attended Delhi Ranji Trophy trials along with Bishan Singh Bedi, Vijay Mehra, Akash Lal, Rajinder Goel and Daljit Saxena. An eye injury curtailed his career as an off-spinner even though he continued to participate in club cricket.
Cricket is education at Delhi Colts and Tripathi and his family strive to continue that tradition from the little plot in Old Delhi.