This week we begin a series on the age-old old cricket clubs of the Capital, including those which have experienced the highs and the lows with equanimity. Vijay Lokapally takes a look at Rohtak Road Gymkhana’s 50-year-old journey marked by a firm belief in playing the game in the right spirit

Dharamvir Jain was a philanthropist. Cricket was his only love. Kids could walk up to his shop, Jain Sports, on Arya Samaj Road, and request, sometimes demand. He would oblige with a smile and promise more if they did well. He ran the Rohtak Road Gymkhana (RRG) for many years, helping kids play cricket, social and competitive, and never charged a penny.

The club is 50 years old but the ownership has changed hands. For Parmod Jain, a cricket freak, the association with RRG began in 1985 when Dharamvir sold the club. “His business had grown and he was involved with the Delhi and District Cricket Association. At heart he remained a cricket supporter. No player ever returned empty handed from his shop,” recalls Parmod.

Sharvan Kumar is a picture of dedication at RRG. You can spot him at the Ramjas Sports Complex, tending the nets, rolling the pitches, guiding the aspirants with a sharp eye on each of them. “I love coaching. We practice daily. RRG is a nursery of cricket where we don’t compromise on discipline and loyalty. Our players are mostly home-bred and we don’t believe in gaining glory from borrowed talent,” says the humble 60-year-old.

Ishant Sharma is the brand ambassador of RRG. A proud Sharvan says, “He has served the club well. At RRG, we believe in playing by the spirit of the game. Win or loss is part of the game but ethics are paramount for RRG cricketers,” emphasises Sharvan. RRG gave Delhi two leg-spinners, Sandeep Angurala and Abhishek Sharma, the latter unfortunate to miss proper guidance.

RRG began with training at Ajmal Khan Park before moving to Talkatora Garden. It boasted names like Rajinder Goel, Chetan Chauhan, Rajinder Pal, Surender Khanna, Rajesvar Vats, M. M. Khanna, Manu Nayyar, among many who played with distinction. “These were players who wanted to represent our club. For us, it was a matter of pride. Their experience enabled the youngsters to learn the best way,” says Parmod, the 62-year-old vice-president of the club.

When Parmod and Sharvan split from the Sonnet Club and took over RRG in 1985, the club was languishing in `C’ division. Hard work and investment in youth hauled RRG back to ‘A’ division and it has not slipped from that position, remaining one of the most competitive clubs in the Capital. The club has no sponsors. “We survive on club fee of 500 a month. Office-bearers pay from their pocket and we also impart free coaching to the needy,” informs Parmod.

Sharvan uses ten new balls during practice daily. “We have a quota of six every day, ten new, and we don’t deny even the new comers their share of training. I take pride in telling you that RRG avoids playing T20 cricket. It harms the young cricketers,” insists Sharvan.

The club’s best match, recalls Sharvan, came against Sonnet in the Davinder Singh memorial tournament at the Harbaksh Stadium, more than a decade ago. Sonnet, with five wickets in hand, needed a run to win. Aakash Chopra, batting on 100, fell to a casual shot off the second ball. The fourth and sixth balls also fetched wickets for Angurala.

The match was tied and RRG won on spin of coin.

Parmod concludes, “We are the only club in Delhi that conducts nets every day.” For a club that survives on donations RRG has indeed come a long way. The original owner is no more. Jain Sports is shut too. But RRG has kept Dharamvir Jain’s vision alive by playing cricket in the spirit of the game.