Jagdishlal Arun Lal moved to Calcutta in 1979 from Delhi. And since then he is here. In 1982 he played first test match against Sri Lanka in Madras. Appeared in 16 test matches with a highest score of 93 and six half centuries. This right handed batsman played thirteen one day internationals for India. Around five years back he opened a cricket academy in Calcutta to coach young children. When I went to meet him in the pratice tent in Maidan in a rainy day in September, I saw Arun with a bunch of kids on the net. Even though the rain was disturbing the schedule, but it could not stop Arun and the kids from practice. Arun is a commentator and cricket analyst. Writes regularly in news paper columns and internet sites. Arun was kind enough to spare sometime for Calcuttaweb visitors. This interview was taken in last September in Calcutta.
Calcuttaweb: CWhat is your plan with this cricket academy ?
Arun Lal. I’ve been running this academy for more than five years and hope to continue this. I am enjoying it immensely. Nothing better than working with children. And it is very satisfying kind of job, you can see the results almost immediately with the children. And it is more satisfying in the sense, that, we have boys playing for Bengal in under 19, under 16, under 13 categories. We have about 4-5 who played for Bengal also. So, in the future we hope to carry on the good work. Apart from that, I am expanding this academy into a bigger venture. Here we are limited in scope and infrastructure. Now I have gathered some experience. For me this has been a learning process. Now I am thinking of my dream academy in Beleghata where I am setting up a ground. We got a separate area other than the ground for practice. I am thinking of putting flood light in this ground. May be in near future an indoor facility. We need bowling machines, all-weather wickets, video cameras, a pavilion, a canteen etc. Next to it there is a swimming pool. So my plan is to set up an academy with all these facilities.
Calcuttaweb: Are you going to have all of these in Calcutta or in other cities too ?
Arun Lal. No, this project, my dream project is going to be in Calcutta. We are going to have different kind of coaching modules. In the evening we want use this as kind of a social club to earn money, for corporate executives.
Calcuttaweb: Are you getting any help from any Govt. or private organizations ?
Arun Lal. I am setting up a joint venture with one corporate house. That will bring some money. Then we go to different sponsors. We will run tournaments – international and national level. Slowly, that is the idea.
Calcuttaweb: Whatever has been happening with the game of cricket in these days, do you think that the enthusiasm is going to grow or pull back for sometime and come back again..
Arun Lal.Well, I think it is already pulling back. The enthusiasm, you know, the spirit, is little down. I can feel it myself. To me also this is such a setback, such a disappointment. But it is going to come back. And this issue is such a big thing , it has been highlighted for long time and is still going on. The game is there for 200 years, so the game is not bad. Some of the people who play this game did something bad.
Calcuttaweb: In some cricket playing nations like, West Indies, England, the young generation is leaning towards others sports than cricket. Do you think something like that can happen here too ?
Arun Lal. See, in those countries, for example in England, the cricket board or administration has to think how to lure young children to cricket, so that they play cricket more than football or rugby . But in India, for sometime it has been all cricket. Appeal for hockey or football is less. Because, in cricket, India has some international presence and success. The game has been promoted a lot. It got the push from media too. People want to read about it, discuss it, hear more about this sports – so the media went crazy about the game, and it reached absolute peak. But slowly other sports are going to come up.
Calcuttaweb: India is not participating in some tournaments where Pakistan is going to play. For example, the biggest cricket event in Northern America, which is the Toronto Sahara Cup tournament, was canceled. What is your reaction to this ?
Arun Lal: Well, like all cricket fans, I am disappointed that these things are happening. I was supposed to go to Toronto for commentary job. In a fashion, I support the Government view. If there is so much tension between two countries. Innocent people from my country are dying even now as we speak. I do not find any reason for playing cricket with them. I do not believe in mixing politics with sports. But, but, you can’t shut your eyes to situations and circumstances like this. You can’t be in war with a country and start playing cricket with them. Things have to settle politically, bilaterally. Then, sure, we should play like before.
Calcuttaweb: For a long period, players from this Eastern zone did not get any focus in national level cricket. Was it because, there was not any academy like this or the selection procedure was biased..
Arun Lal: No , we did not do well. Again you know it has a spiraling effect. One year you dont do well you are neglected, you are demotivated. Next year youngsters are demotivated. Bengal never won the Ranji Trophy. See, you got to prove to the rest of the land that you are as good as them. Actually you have to win. Someway you have to win. You can’t say that selectors are biased against the East when you are not winning any tournaments. That argument will have a basis when you win some national tournaments. In last ten twelve years we started playing good cricket. There are expectations that you will reach the semifinals or at least quarter finals every year. And remain in the top five teams in the country. But that had not happened on a regular basis. Now it is happening and we have seen the results. We have so many players – Nikhil, Rohan, Devang who were considered for Indian teams. I dont think there is any bias against the Eastern zone.
Calcuttaweb: Coming back to the academy, approximately how many students you have now ?
Arun Lal: Too many, more than I can handle. We have about five hundred of them now. It is amazing, we have three different shifts. We have about seventeen coaches, it is a big establishment now. Gopal Bose, Malay and others come here and coach. Now I got this new thing in Beleghata, boys from here go there , play matches, I hope to have thousand kids by next year.
Calcuttaweb: Calcuttaweb: And you are permanently settled here
Arun Lal: Oh yes, I love it here. I came here actually in 1979, almost 22 years. I am one of those die hard Calcuttans, even sometimes more Calcuttan than other Bengalis.
Calcuttaweb: Your contribution to Bengal cricket is unforgettable. You were the one to boost the game in this side of the country after a long time. People say, what Gavaskar did for Bombay, Kapil Dev for Delhi, you did for Calcutta.
Arun Lal: I am flattered if you think that way. But I think the real start was done by Dilip Doshi. Lot of due credit is not really given. I learnt a lot from him too. I was trying very hard. It is a matter of attitude.
Calcuttaweb: We have one ground dedicated to cricket, that is the Eden Gardens. And the world famous ground seems to be underutilized
Arun Lal: That is true, it is ridiculous, it’s a major problem. Even that one ground – Eden Gardens is sort of treated like a shy bride by CAB. It is not used. I have seen that if a test match has to be played, from one and half month before that, they stop all cricket there. So, domestic cricket, Bengal cricket suffers. You see, it is very different from other countries. In Australia, when I was watching a test match in Melbourne, there was a first class match going on in Adelade. In after a week, the test match was on Adelede on the same ground. So they continue playing. Here I do not know what comes over us. This a major problem we face in here. All the other grounds are basically football ground.
Calcuttaweb: Right now is there any indoor facility in the city .
Arun Lal: There is one arena in CAB, where they have three wickets. But that has a weak infrastructure. Lighting is not good enough, wicket is not good enough.
Calcuttaweb: Okay Arun, thanks a lot and best wishes.
Arun Lal: You are welcome.