It wasn’t a regular phone call between Sonnet coach Devendra Sharma and his student Rishabh Pant on April 30. The coach dialed Pant, who is undergoing rehabilitation in Bengaluru, to inform him about Sonnet Cricket Club’s eviction from the Sri Venkateswara College in South Delhi. The news left Pant, whose cricketing journey took shape under the watchful eyes of the late Tarak Sinha, founder of the iconic club, disturbed. The Indian wicketkeeper-batter immediately dialed the principal Sheela Reddy but his call wasn’t answered. He has left her a message and even requested the governing bodies, via a tweet, of the college to “reconsider” the decision.
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“Yes, I informed Pant last evening and he was very disturbed after hearing this. Wo bhi waha pareshan ho gaya hai and is trying his best. He did meet the principal before his accident too regarding the club when talks were underway regarding not giving an extension to the club,” says Devender Sharma, the former Delhi cricketer who has been managing the club since Tarak Sinha’s death in 2021.
For over two decades, the club has been based out of Sri Venkateswara College and also trains the college’s cricket team absolutely free. Many aspiring cricketers in the past have taken admission to the college primarily because of Sonnet and the late Tarak Sinha. The eviction has now left over a hundred trainees without a place to practice in the middle of the club season.
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“April 30 is your last day, we were informed by the authorities and now we don’t have anywhere to go. I still don’t know the reason, no one has given me a reason. If it’s the money, we can increase the money but this place was everything for us. We maintained the ground, trained the college’s team for free, and also didn’t charge a penny from underprivileged boys. Now my over 100 cricketers are without nets in the middle of the season. DDCA T20 League is going on; Challenger Trophy will start soon. Where will the kids train?” asks a helpless Devender.
Sonnet, which has produced international cricketers like Pant, Aakash Chopra, Atul Wassan, Ashish Nehra, continues to be a formidable team in the Delhi circuit and even right now, two of their trainees – Ayush Badoni, Hrithik Shokeen – are playing for IPL teams Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Supergiants respectively. The current trainees were inconsolable when Devender informed them about the eviction on April 30 and kept asking “What will happen next?”.
“I didn’t know what to say to my students. Some even started crying and it was not a good sight for me. I have trained them for years and now I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t have any space right now and don’t know where I will hold the next practice session. It is not easy to set up a facility in Delhi NCR so easily,” says Devender.
For an extended period during the pandemic, cricketing activities were put on a halt in the capital but Sonnet continued to pay the ground fee to the college. Devender informs they maintained the ground and paid “around 18-19 lakh” for those two years when everyone was mostly indoors due to the coronavirus.
“Tarak sir had decided that we will pay the fees even during the pandemic, so we did. For that period when there wasn’t much activity or cricket back then, we paid a total of 18-19 lakh. Even the government guidelines didn’t force us to pay the fee for that period but we did and maintained the ground too. We did the best we could during our time there and now suddenly we have been asked to go. If they would have given us six months, it could have helped me find a place for the kids but no who do I find so soon,” says Devender.
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Sonnet is a DDCA-affiliated club and Devender says he will try to get in touch with President Rohan Jaitley and seek his support and help for the club.
“I will try and get in touch with Rohan Jaitley ji too. I hope someone supports us so that the club doesn’t suffer. The future of these kids shouldn’t be affected,” says Devender.
Former India cricketer Aakash Chopra, who is now a famous commentator, also tweeted out on the club’s eviction, and similar views were shared by presenter Gaurav Kapoor. Devender, however, said that no alumni of the club, except Pant, has reached out to him for support.
“I saw those tweets. No one except Pant has reached out to me yet. Meri abhi tak Pant ke alawa kisi se koi baat nahi hui,” says Devender.
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News Source: https://www.news18.com/cricketnext/amp/over-100-cricketers-are-without-nets-iconic-sonnet-cricket-club-evicted-from-sri-venkateswara-college-7692193.html