More than a century ago, ‘The Bombay Chronicle’ daily published a story of a cricket match held in Pune, then Poona, PYC Hindu Gymkhana versus Deccan Gymkhana. The former won the match by 67 runs at their home ground, with then 28-year-old D B Deodhar scoring 59 runs. While Poona Young Cricketers’ (PYC) Gymkhana made a handsome 140, their accurate bowling, splendid fielding and noteworthy teamwork secured them the win that June day in 1920.
Time and seasons have changed but the team spirit among the cricketers of PYC Hindu Gymkhana remains unchanged. A similar determination and passion can still be seen in the eyes of the young cricketers practising at the PYC Gymkhana grounds every day.
Located on Bhandarkar Road, the PYC Gymkhana today is a training turf for several sports and continues to churn out international and national-level sportspersons. It is also among the few gymkhanas that have a standing among the cricket clubs in the country.
A ‘blessed’ pitch
“It all started in the year 1900 when a few young and enthusiastic cricketers formed ‘Poona Young Cricketers’ Hindu Gymkhana’, a club for promoting cricket and other sports. In the early years, the Late Bapat Guruji from Hujurpaga School rendered yeoman’s service in facilitating basic sports like Wrestling, Mallkhamb, Hockey and Cricket,” reads the official PYC Gymkhana website.
“At the time, Poona had a handful of sports clubs run by the British. For Indians to develop in the world of sports, the scope was very limited. The PYC Gymkhana is one of the clubs that pioneered in creating a space for Indian sportspersons in the formative years of their sports career. The name, many believe, is because the gymkhana was specifically for Indian players,” said Vinayak Dravid, cricket secretary at PYC Gymkhana.
By 1906, a striking pavilion was erected after the club received aegis from Sardar Vinchurkar and was named after him. The first council of the PYC Gymkhana was formed with members V B Bapat, V H Barve, N L Samel, S V Bapa, Prof S S Godbole, M K Agashe, Prof V G Kale, L B Bhopatkar and S K Godbole. Within four years, cricket activities began at the PYC grounds.
The Grand Old Man of Indian Cricket, D B Deodhar played an instrumental role in moulding and establishing the cricket ecosystem of the club. The club has produced first-class distinguished cricketers like Kedar Jadhav, Devika Vaidya, Rajendra Bhalekar, Hemant Kinikar, Sham Oak, Makarand Dixit, Hemant Tadwalkar, U-19 World Cup player Siddhesh Veer and national selector Surendra Bhave among others.
The gymkhana is also the alma mater of cricketers Indrajeet Kamtekar, PYC’s women’s coach, PYC men’s coach Niranjan Godbole, Satish Pendnekar, Madhav Ranade, Suresh Dhumke, Vishwas Gore, Vishwas Deshmukh, Avinash Ranade, Prasad Pradhan, Balchandra Joglekar and Madhu Gupte.
“There are many stories that are attached to this cricket field…One of the stories is when legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar sought guidance from one of the leading coaches in India, Kamal Bhandarkar, when he was going through a rough patch in his cricket career. It is on these very grounds that Gavaskar’s techniques were corrected and he later scored those record-breaking centuries after. The pitch itself is very blessed, in that sense,” said Niranjan Godbole.
Dravid added that not only has the gymkhana, with its world-class amenities, moulded cricketers through the years, it has also produced well-trained coaches. “Talented individuals are handpicked to undergo a rigorous process to become the coaches that the players need…We have about 19 coaches, four of them former first-class cricketers and several level-2 coaches. It is all in the best interest of the sportspersons working towards a career in cricket,” Dravid said.
Building a brotherhood
PYC Gymkhana, apart from being known for its contribution to sports development in the city, is also popular for its cultural calendar. However, PYC is most distinguished for its club pride and the competition it shares with fellow clubs in Pune city.
“It must have been 1985-86 and it was the Bajirao Trophy. It was a limited overs finals match here at PYC Gymkhana. The opponent Vilas Club had a very strong team, 50 per cent of their players had played in the Ranji. Some noteworthy names in the team were Riaz Husein Poonawala, Vinayak Khedkar, Sunil Gudge, and Vijay Bhagwan Shetty. PYC were all out with about 120-odd runs, and during the break, the discussions were about how Vilas Club will surely win with such a robust team,” recalled Dravid. Yet, PYC won the game with 15 runs as Vilas Club was all out with 110 runs.
“We could not get enough runs but what we could do was demonstrate splendid fielding with accurate bowling. The match is etched in my memory as PYC cricket has always been known for its teamwork. The kind of team spirit that we presented on the field, the pride and passion that came once the players donned the PYC jersey, it built a brotherhood that has lasted over four to five decades for many,” added Dravid.
The club also organises trailblazing cricket tournaments every year. Over the years, the tournaments have offered selection committees the opportunity to handpick cricketers for state, national and international teams. The Mandke Trophy started by Deodhar, the Late Raju Bhalekar Trophy, the PYC Challenger Trophy and the PYC Premier League (tennis ball tournament) are among the premium tournaments hosted by the PYC Gymkhana today. “The tournaments, apart from giving the right platform for players, also help the selection team scout for talented players,” said Dravid.
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