Cox Town plays host to night cricket tournaments, football matches and tennis coaching centres

Every few months, the grounds near the Bangalore East railway station can be seen brightly lit late at night. Passers-by can hear loud cheers and boos. It is the ‘night cricket’ tournament, which the locality has been a proud host to for years.

“The tournament is well organised with sponsorships and rewards for the players,” said Shabbir, a sports enthusiast. As most of the players are in their late 20s and busy with their day jobs, the organisers schedule the cricket matches after sunset, going well past midnight.

Playing for glory

A total of 12 teams enrol for the event with each team having to pay Rs. 10,000 as entry fee. The prize money being just Rs. 30,000, the teams are playing for glory.

So, for residents of Cantonment, the Young Challengers is a more familiar name than the city’s more illustrious IPL team. They are the favourites to win the night cricket tournament to be held in a few months. After all, they are the champions of a tournament which concluded a month ago.

Has poor visibility ever affected the game? Sahil, who represents the Arsalaans team, replied with an emphatic “no.” “The ground is equipped with floodlights, which provide more than sufficient lighting for the games,” he said. “Politicians from different parties including local councillor A.R. Zakir chip in with their support.”

The Bangalore East railway station grounds also plays host to a variety of local tournaments, including the Independence Day football cup, which started this week. With fans cheering from not only the stands but also the pedestrian overbridge, teams from Ulsoor and Koramangala compete for the coveted cup. Perhaps, it has something to do with the culture of sports nurtured by the colonial past of the area.

Legacy

The Indian Gymkhana club here seems to be playing a role in encouraging sports among youngsters. Founded in 1932, this club on Wheeler Road was established by a group of government officials including Revenue Department commissioner (retd.) Kuppaswamy Naidu and the former Mayor Deendayal Naidu. Their love for the game of tennis drove them to acquire four acres of marshy and inhospitable land to convert it into a centre for sporting activities.

Several residents make a beeline here not only to pursue badminton, billiards and tennis, but also for cards and carom.

Over the years, the Gymkhana grounds have been the training turf for prominent cricketers including G.R. Vishwanth, Syed Kirmani and Roger Binny.

Despite its close links with cricket, the Gymkhana has also managed to remain true to the favourite game of its founders — tennis. The club presently houses three state of the art clay courts. About 50 youngsters are trained by State-level professionals.

Renowned names in Indian tennis such as Arthi Venkataraman, Archana Venkatraman and Aarti Ponnappa have been part of the successful tennis academy that is a corner stone of the Gymkhana legacy.

Hurdles

However, it has not been smooth sailing for the club. There were demands for unfettered access of the club grounds to the general public, which the Gymkhana administration resisted. The matter even went to court. Finally, the dispute was settled in favour of the Gymkhana management in 2008. In the same year, the lease on the 4-acre property ended.

“We got a fresh 35-year lease from the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike. We have embarked upon a major expansion drive,” said vice-president of the club Madan Gopal. “The expansion plans include construction of three new tennis courts on an elevated piece of land. This to solve the problem of water clogging in the existing courts.”

The club now has over 1,300 members, which means that it doubles as a social hub linking the population of this area through their love for sports.

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