A message from my friend Vic Mills:
“My early October arrival in Mumbai had been planned to coincide with the start of the new Indian cricket season; the idea being to steal a march on our important second season. However, as cricketers the world over continue to discover, you really can’t trust the weather. In our case it was the southwest monsoon which, like the unwelcome house guest, simply refused to depart; in the process leaving the Gymkhana authorities unsure whether to plant rice or play cricket.
Eventually the rains relented, but the monsoon meant the season was a month late in starting. The Gymkhana mali and his groundstaff worked tirelessly to relay the wicket table, parts of which had simply been washed away. Five lorry loads of top soil were dropped on the outfield, barrowed to the square, where it was painstakingly raked and rolled.
Then more rain fell, along with several dramatic thunder storms and, if not back quite literally to square one, the late chance to plant any grass seed had been lost. The prospect for the 2010-2011 season, then, is of slow, low, grassless pitches; for many the archetypal Indian track.
I visited the ground on my last day in mid-November and found that the mali had taken matters a stage further. Close to the pavilion, wickets had been pitched, creases marked, a garland placed on the stumps and, as an offering to an altogether higher cricketing deity, a coconut had been broken on a rock. Something perhaps for your own groundsman to consider next season when life turns a little inclement.
While unable to stage any coaching sessions for the month of October, plans still went ahead for the start of the new season. Two Registration Mornings were held at the Dharavi Community Centre, where player details were taken; they also provided an opportunity for the children to get a sneak preview of some of the nearly 200 kilos of kit brought over.
Most popular proved to be the Herefordshire shirts, flannels and caps so ably collected during the early part of the year by the Genders Family and the good folk of Kington. The kit will be handed to the children just as soon as the season and the coaching sessions settle into a regular pattern.
Huge thanks again go to British Airways for their continued support of Project Front Foot. They were even more generous in their baggage allowance this trip – thanks to some over-zealous packing – by allowing a seventh bag to be checked-in. Perhaps the mali’s poojas were already anticipated by the cricketing deities that day at Heathrow. Indeed, such was the volume of kit that my seventh floor room above the Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari Temple in Matunga resembled a small sporting goods outlet for much of my stay.
The sheer volume of clothing and equipment meant that I was able to offer kit to other agencies and organisations: one bag made the long journey to Jaipur in Rajasthan where an Australian friend has started a sister project to PFF; another bag went north by car to Gujarat for use by underprivileged children in Tarapur; while a third bag was placed with Salaam Bombay a sport-based children’s NGO in Mumbai.
Two additional bags went to schools in southern Maharashtra: the first – the Sudhagarh Education Society Primary School at Kurul – had precious little cricket kit and were only too happy to receive our donation; the second went to the much larger R.M.Patil High School in Bamangaon where it was accepted by the headmaster with teachers and students in attendance.
Having established links with these schools, the plan is to supply further kit on future visits along with a simple but structured coaching programme. In the long term, provided the necessary finance is available, the hope is that we will be able to either take the Dharavi children to play a match or matches against these schools, as well as inviting these schools to Mumbai for matches at the Gymkhana.
The main casualty of the late monsoon, other than the start of the new season, was the enforced cancellation of our Big Bash Tournament scheduled for the Gymkhana on Sunday 24 October. Plans remain in place for this to be held at a later date. The tournament format will be 10/10 (as opposed to 20/20) and involve a PFF under-14 side along with three others from children-based NGOs in Mumbai. Set to be staged on a Sunday, and thus a day of rest even for slum dwellers, the main benefit of both the ground location and tournament is that parents will be able to attend.
With a more structured approach to the coaching this season, the children are being divided into two age groups. The Tuesday and Thursday morning session’s have been allocated to the 10-14 year olds, with the Friday session given over to the 15-18 age group. We have remedied last season’s shortfall in coaches by employing three students who have themselves just completed an intensive cricket coaching course.
With the Gymkhana square still a work-in-progress we began the new season with fielding drills and small outfield games on Tuesday November 2. Over thirty boys attended along with stalwart project coaches Chris, Krishna and Asim. The unavailability of the nets detracted little from the occasion as witnessed by the high octane enthusiasm and enjoyment of the Dharavi children.
The full story of the start to PFF’s second season can be found by going to www.projectfrontfoot.org and clicking on either News Items or the Blog icon. Further pictures from this latest trip have been added to the Temple Life and Dharavi Street Life galleries, while new galleries including Sort & Pack 3, Monsoon Mayhem, Registration Day, Kit 4 Schools, and Season 2010-2011 are currently being constructed and will appear very soon.
I will be returning to Mumbai with more kit in late February next year. This forthcoming visit will signal the last of our reserves from the 2010 appeal. Thus, although a little difficult to think cricket with snow and ice on the ground and still more to come, I would urge you to keep spreading the word about Project Front Foot and to keep a weather eye open for any surplus kit for this coming year’s appeal which will start in April 2011.
Finally, I would like to thank the following friends, clubs, businesses and organisations for their help and encouragement during the past twelve months: Chris Way, Krishna Pujari, Asim Shaikh, Ganesh, Reality Gives, Abhinav, Salaam Bombay, Mr K Satya Murthy, Mr R Kannan, Mr P R Subramanian, Mr V Ramachandran, Professor S Subramanian, Indian Gymkhana Club (King’s Circle), Sri Kanyaka Parameshwari Temple (Matunga), Rita Gebert, Neil Smith, Helios Designs, Sally Mundy, Matt Benson, Harry Pougher, Matt Pickering, Martin Fisher, Tony Cross, Aaron Onyon, John Stow, Florence McMullan, Julian Stuart, Alan Maddison, Julian Wilde, Phil Sullivan, Brian McNulty, Geoff Turnbull, Tim Harding, Gary Benson, Lincoln Lindum CC, Hels Meredith, Samanda Black, Christine Hawley, John Dwane, Pat Bowers, Maureen Newbitt, Tim & Jenny Gill, Ian Rance, Sue Carter, Keren Lovett, British Airways, the Genders Family, customers of George’s Delicatessen (Kington), Mid Wales Journal, Herefordshire Cricket Board, CLUBSPORT, Tim Sherwood-King, Richard Bowyer, Sandbach CC, Peter Mason, Collingham CC, Gordon Hubbard, Oakham CC, Dave Orrey, Heighington CC, Martin Briggs, Chris Finn, John Ellison, Nottinghamshire CCC, Amanda Foster, David Quincey, Sir William Robertson High School, Ann Boulton, Stuart George, Maggie Rosen, Mike Worne, Andy Farrant, Rod Whiting, Melvyn Prior, BBC Radio Lincolnshire, Philippa Stewart, Nick Purkiss, Lincolnshire Echo, Lynette Pinchess, Nottingham Evening Post, and The Wisden Cricketer magazine. ”