In the passing away of Subhania Cricket Club’s founder-cum-coach Radheysham Sharma another pillar of the Capital’s cricket coaching has fallen. Radheyshyam, who was 90, passed away in Delhi on Wednesday morning.
During the 1960s to 2000, Delhi cricket was dominated by players from clubs, notably Sonnet, Subhania, R R Gymkhana and National Stadium Sports Centre. With Sonnet’s founder and coach Tarak Sinha having left this world a couple of years ago, Radheyshyam’s death has come as a big blow to the Capital’s cricket, which is already struggling to match its performances of the 1970s and ’80s.
Subhania had the rare distinction of some of the greats of Indian cricket of those days having represented it in some local tournaments in the 1960s and ’70s. They included ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev and Surinder Amarnath. Former Union minister Ajay Maken also represented the club in one of the matches.
“My papa’s dream was to build a sports complex, entirely for the use of our club. When the cricket ground and hostel were completed in Greater Noida a few years ago, he felt so happy because for the past 50-odd years, the club had been struggling to get a permanent ground for practice,” recalled Subhania Cricket Club founder-cum-coach Radheysham’s son N K Sharma, popularly called Chikku, when he informed me of the news over phone.
The sports complex is presently run under the supervision of Chikku. Both boys and girls are trained here with some former Ranji cricketers frequenting it as ‘visiting coaches.’
Radheyshyam’s workload as a club coach was very much similar to Tarak Sinha’s in his early days. Both used to ferry not only players on their bicycles to the grounds but carry cricket kits (including cricket mats) either on cycles or cycle rickshaws.
I had an association with ‘Kaptanji’, as his trainees used to refer to him, for over five decades. I found him selfless, dedicated, disciplined and fearless. He was never afraid to fight with the authorities for the interest of young cricketers. Yet, he was highly respected by both cricketers and officials for his knowledge of the game and his dedication.
Like Tarak Sinha, Radheyshyam started his club with meagre finances. Initially, the club used to operate from a ground near Karnail Singh Stadium.
Obsessed with the game, he quit his Railway job to start a sports equipment and sportswear business. He put all the money earned through that business into running his club.
During the 1960-2000 era, Subhania used to participate in all summer tournaments, conducted in the Capital. The club had a running on-field battle with Sonnet, R R Gymkhana, Ajmal Khan Road, Madras Club, besides institutional teams CWC, FCI, ONGC, Indian Airlines and National Stadium in most of these tournaments, as well as in the DDCA hot weather tournaments. It was no wonder that the club won close to 40 trophies during those four decades.
N P Singh, a former Railways and Indian Airlines cricketer, was a regular at the Subhania nets. He recalled an exciting 40-over-a-side match played by his club in 1987-88 season at the Modern School grounds against Malviya Club, which had the likes of Kapil Dev, Ashok Malhotra, Yashpal Sharma, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chetan Sharma in its ranks.
With an over to spare, Subhania achieved the target of 202 runs, with D K Jain, Pradeep Kochar, Kamal Talwar and N P Singh himself contributing to the exciting win.
Besides former India wicketkeeper-batsman Vijay Yadav, other notable first-class players to come out of the Subhania stable included Ravi Sehgal, Mohan Chaturvedi, Narender Pal Singh, Durga Prashad, Shankar Saini and Ved Raj.
Radheyshyam was instrumental in the formation of DDCA sports committee in early 1990s, to give representation to clubs in the running of Delhi cricket.
Besides training players at his club, Radheyshyam held other important assignments in Delhi cricket. He was the coach of the North Zone Under-19 team and was a sought-after pitch curator and had played a big role in preparing the Kotla pitches for international, Ranji and IPL matches.
“The sports complex at Greater Noida is a great blessing for young cricketers. I am sure Papa will rest in peace because with modern facilities, the club can produce more cricketers to represent various states and the country as well,” said Chikku, as he immersed himself in his father’s memory.
(A veteran cricketer reporter, the writer extensively followed Delhi cricket for close to four decades while working for The Indian Express)