New Delhi: Even as Rajkot braces itself to welcome a new Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise and hosts of celebrity cricketers from around the world thanks to the cash-rich T20 league, a softspoken yet determined Cheteshwar Pujara is doing his bit to help the sport reached all sections of the society.
Pujara, with father Arvind, has invested in a six-acre land where he's helped build a cricket academy with pitches for budding cricketers from not so well to do backgrounds. Billed as the next Rahul Dravid of Indian cricket, for his obvious batting talent, this certainly reflects the not so obvious off the field behaviour.
"Rajkot doesn't have any ground where children can practice regularly. In Mumbai, you have Shivaji Park and Azad Maidan where proper good-quality nets take place. I was lucky that Railway gave us one pitch to practice but that is not available anymore. Someone has to provide them the basic facilities otherwise, how will they grow as cricketers?" Pujara is quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
The academy is at a distance of about 5 kilometres from the current Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium, where the current international matches take place and will house the Rajkot IPL franchise.
It also houses a small gym, a make-shift dressing room, a battery-run bowling machine, besides a bathroom, a small rest room are still under construction. There are six practice pitches in the ground which is bigger than any average stadium in many cities.
Pujara has also made conveyance arrangements for the kids from in and around the city to drop them to the ground.
"I was lucky that I have my father who looked after me and my cricket but there are many here who just can’t afford this sport. I remember one evening after the IPL, my dad told me to lets have a big ground where we can train and train others too. I just couldn't say no to it," Cheteshwar added.