In 1958, a bunch of cricket lovers got together and formed a club with the India Gate lawns as their training ground. Joginder Singh, employed with the Northern Railway, was joined by Gurcharan Singh and thus began an association that grew into friendship. It was the foundation for the launch of Veterans Club.
Joginder was the silent force even as Gurcharan emerged as the face of the Veterans Club. The club won many titles, including the local league, and changed its name to Delhi Blues in 1987 under interesting circumstances. “We were on a tour to England when we realised the local oppositions were unhappy with the fact that the Veterans Club was bringing youngsters who were proving unbeatable. The English clubs were fielding veteran players in the true spirit of the game. We thus became Delhi Blues,” recalls Joginder.
The National Institute of Sports (NIS) was the nursery for producing some outstanding cricketers in the Capital. The supply line was always flooded with talent as Gurcharan toiled day and night to create a fascinating corner at the National Stadium. Youngsters came in hordes, learnt the basics, fine-tuned their game and drifted out in various directions in search of exciting playing fields.
To represent NIS was a huge honour. “As good as playing for Delhi,” recalls Kirti Azad, one of the most famous students of Gurcharan. In order to provide good competition, Gurcharan pushed his young trainees into the local league through Veterans Club.
“There was no point having just nets at the National Stadium and not competing. The DDCA League and many local tournaments helped my students understand the true meaning of competitive cricket. I am indebted to Joginder for his vision. He had started the club with the aim of giving youngsters a decent platform to grow,” says a grateful Gurcharan, who was bestowed with the Dronacharya Award in 1987.
Apart from Azad, some of the internationals who turned out for Delhi Blues are Maninder Singh, Vivek Razdan, Murali Kartik, Ajay Jadeja, Debasish Mohanty, Gursharan Singh, Gagan Khoda and Rahul Sanghvi. Left-arm spinners Pradeep Jain and Sukvinder Singh have added value to the club’s reputation over the years. And there was one more illustrious member, who would come down from Ranchi in search of opportunities to play cricket in the Capital. Delhi Blues accommodated him and even to this day Mahendra Singh Dhoni acknowledges the lessons learnt at the club.
M. P. Singh, coach at the National Stadium, remembers, “Dhoni played quite a few tournaments for us in Delhi, Patna, Bareilly and Rajnandgaon in 2002 and 2003. Obviously it became difficult for him to play for us once he earned the India cap.” The biggest advantage of representing Delhi Blues was the players were honed by qualified coaches like Gurcharan, M.P. Singh, V.K. Soni and Sunita Sharma. The club prides itself in discipline and Sameer Bahadur, the hard-working Delhi Blues president, says, “There has not been one incident involving our players. Cricket is learnt and played the traditional way at Delhi Blues.”
Sandeep Joshi, a key component of the club as player-administrator, maintains, “Delhi Blues has set high examples in discipline and it has many achievements to its credit. A tour with Delhi Blues is the ultimate cricket education one can look forward to.” For Jain, who played 93 first-class matches as a left-arm spinner, the grooming at Delhi Blues was part of growing up to become a good citizen. “Gurcharan sir never compromised on discipline,” he points out.
P.R. Man Singh’s Hyderabad Blues was the pioneer among clubs travelling overseas during summers. Gurcharan’s Delhi Blues has maintained the tradition of “quality cricket education” by organising tours to England apart from giving the youngsters chances in local tournaments. “The idea of going to England is to keep the players ready for the domestic season. We travel in July-August and when the boys return they are well tuned for our domestic cricket,” says Gurcharan.
Regulars with the Delhi Blues remember a match at Leicester. Amrinder Singh, skipper on that tour, recalls, “We were playing Cropston Cricket Club in Leicester in 1992. Andy Jackman and Warne Walsh were names to fear. Our opposition had hired seven players of West Indies origin and four of Pakistan. There were banners all over the town announcing the match. Obviously we were more than nervous but we made some tactical changes, altered the batting order (chasing 203) and Ravi Sehgal and Gautam Vadehra accomplished the target in style. Our victory was hailed with banners too.”
Delhi Blues is an integral part of Delhi’s club culture. A tour to England in the summer is the incentive for young aspirants. The competition is ever growing.