Ready to conquer the world, Delhi’s sports youth icon

first_imgWhatever national fashionistas think of the large mass of humanity in the capital, Delhi’s record register rings consistently on one count. Sport. Be it Virendra Sehwag or Ashish Nehra, Jaspal Rana or Jyoti Randhawa, the capital has churned out a very healthy tally of sports stars. Increasingly, the age bar,Whatever national fashionistas think of the large mass of humanity in the capital, Delhi’s record register rings consistently on one count. Sport. Be it Virendra Sehwag or Ashish Nehra, Jaspal Rana or Jyoti Randhawa, the capital has churned out a very healthy tally of sports stars. Increasingly, the age bar of excellence seems to be lowered with every year. Delhi’s fresh cache of talent is now ready to conquer bigger worlds.Sunil ChetriNFL best player Sunil ChetriHe has the talent (a State level footballer since class 10), the right lineage (three years with Mohun Bagan and since 2005 with JCT FC), the right credentials (he is this year’s best player of the National Football League)? and what’s more The Look. At 22, Sunil Chetri has arrived. Or so fans of Indian football would love to believe. This son of an Army man has never let victory out of his sight. Be it his student days at Army Public School and Mamta Model later, or his City Club days before he broke into the big league at 17, bagging a three-year Rs 12-lakh contract with Mohun Bagan.But that was much later. Delhi opened up a world of options for the boy from Calcutta when his father’s Army job brought the Chetri family to the capital in the 1990s. Sunil was in Class 6 then. “I matured faster here. Compared to life in Delhi, Calcutta had a more homely atmosphere,” feels Sunil. “I was a spoilt child. I played all sports and my parents let me, even encouraged me to take up sports,” says the India national forward. There’s a little known fact about Sunil that is instrumental to his choice of vocation though. His maternal aunt (who is a twin of his mother) used to play in Nepal’s national women’s soccer team but had to give up the sport post marriage. “She still laments it. And my mother was keen that I take up soccer though my parents never forced me to do anything,” he says. That was on one condition though, “I’d to keep up with my studies. I was always among the top 10 in class and my father checked my progress every night. So I’d do double course, play and work hard. Travel from Delhi Cantonment to Azadpur for practise and catch up with studies at night.” Soon he was playing at the State level-first for the Under-14 then for Under-16.advertisementWhen the call every Indian footballer dreams of came, Sunil didn’t think twice before signing up with the Bengal club. A decision he came to regret soon, though he hastens to add that “money wasn’t a problem.” The binding contract meant that he couldn’t explore other opportunities (and there were lucrative offers from the second year) till the stipulated tenure was over. When Punjab club JCT Mills offered him a place in 2005, he welcomed the break.There was of course that plus of being closer to home. His parents and younger sister are the core support group that Sunil thrives on. And Delhi gives him a high that no other city can match up to. “It’s one of the best cities, I’m in love with this place,” he says. However, the capital’s sporting scene has a lot to catch up on, he adds. Given the right guidance (“no colas, no chips, ample rest”), infrastructure and support from corporate houses, the city has a lot to look forward to, he feels. “You’ve to keep up with your studies,” he advises aspirants. “The more you study the more brains you’ll have and your game will improve.”Sunil who joined Kolkata’s Ashutosh College for a year while he was playing for Bagan is thinking of ways to finish his education even as he continues to play. Up next is a training camp in Portugal in July followed by the ONGC tournament starting August 16.The Delhi dude who idolises Brazil’s Ronaldo has his plans figured out. “I want to be the best here. I’ve always dreamt of going abroad to play and the only way is to be the best. I can’t be choosy, I will take up any offer as a challenge.”Sunil wants to see just how far his flying feet will take him. Naturally Europe is next. He has already appeared for trials with German club Hoffenheim.Abhishek VermaAbhishek Verma, ArcheryHe turned 18 this June 26 and his advance birthday gift could not have been a better preamble for adulthood. Abhishek Verma, flush from his victory in the boys individual compound bow in the second Asian Junior Archery Championship at Chinese Taipei on June 18, is busy finalising his college admission. “I’ve made it into Hans Raj in BA,” he says. Life could not have been kinder to this Model Town boy, from its Govt. Boys Sr. Sec. School (no. 1). In an age when most Indian boys spew cricket, Abhishek took to the bow-and how.advertisementAsk him his reasons and his answer is simple, “My uncle told me to take it up. Besides, other boys from my school were participating in archery events and winning, that inspired me.”The journey began when Abhishek was in Class 9 and within a few months of his joining the archery class at University Grounds, he was called to play in the sub-junior national in Bangalore. Eight national (he won medals in five of these) and five international events (three medals) later, one of his favourite memories are set in Delhi, the year was 2004. That’s when he made a national record with a gold (20m) and silver (overall) in the individual category. The latest feat only adds to his hunger for more. “These days IGI, where I practise, is closed for renovation and University Grounds is being used for campus trials, I hate to sit at home,” he says .Abhishek is now looking to pursue archery as a career. “If you work hard, your chances are bright,” he says. “But one needs the support of sponsors. There’s no money in it now, at least in Delhi, and the equipment is quite expensive.”Ishant SharmaIshant SharmaQuickie, gawky, Lambu? many sobriquets and several false starts later, Delhi fast bowler Ishant Sharma has finally caught the fancy of the BCCI. A little earlier than even the authorities themselves had envisaged but there’s no knowing when Lady Luck smiles. As many as five ODI members of the Indian team in Ireland were taken ill and Ishant (along with bowlers Baroda’s Rakesh Patel and Bengal’s Ranadeb Bose) was told to be available for selection in Belfast at less than a day’s notice. So while Ishant went shoe-shopping in Delhi, we kept close track of the city’s rising talent.Discovered at 14 by Rohtak Road Gymkhana cricket coach Sharwan Kumar, Ishant soon proved his backers right. “Sooner than we thought,” says Kumar today. Ishant was seeking an admission to Ganga International School and Kumar, sensing a potential in the lanky boy, set out to train him for bigger things. “His height (at 6’4″ today) and built were just right. He had a problem with his run-up initially but he learned fast and played in the under-17 that first year,” says Kumar. “That’s one of my fondest memories of Delhi,” says Ishant. And why not-he snapped up a rich haul of 16 wickets in that match against Haryana.After two years of consistent performance in the junior level and playing for Delhi, the 18-year-old replaced Munaf Patel in Bangladesh making his international test debut this May. “I’m mentally prepared, it’s no different,” the teen sensation who looks up to Glenn McGrath shows no trace of stress as he readies to fly off to Ireland. “He has a cool temperament,” agrees Kumar.advertisementWhen not on the pitch, Ishant loves to hang out with his gang of eight friends. “This city has given me everything, I love everything about it,” he says. What about girls? “What about them?” he poses a bouncer, “I’ve no time to think of girls.” Indeed cricket takes up most of his time and he could not take his class 12 board exam in the last session. “I plan to complete it this year,” he says. Here’s hoping that his career too swings in the right direction.Divya SinghDivya Singh, NBA playerThey could well be called the Famous Five of Indian women’s basketball. Sisters Divya, Prashanti, Akansha and Pratima Singh fill up the ranks of our national and state teams. While the eldest, Priyanka, is now a coach in Thailand, Divya, Prashanti and Akansha play for the national team and Jesus and Mary College student Pratima is playing the junior level.We turn the focus on Divya who has been creating quite a stir with a foreign offer (albeit from relatively lesser known Basketball Association of Chile to play in their professional league). The Basketball Federation of India is ready to back her case along with fellow hoopster Geethu Anna Jose who has been already chosen for the Women’s National Basketball Association.Originally from Varanasi, UP, Divya, who will turn 25 this July, was playing for UP in the state level before breaking into the national scene in 2000. A job offer from Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd brought her to Delhi in 2002. And this Banaras Hindu University topper in physical education says she loved the change. “There are more opportunities in Delhi,” she reasons. “I love the city-the roads, the greenery and the people.” What about the Delhi dudes? “They are cool and good looking,” she giggles, “but perhaps a little too conscious about their looks.”Marriage is definitely not on the cards, though she admits to be sifting through CVs of prospective grooms her parents have lined up.Divya has been coaching the St. Stephen’s College team in the summers every year. So how does she want to contribute to the sport? “My dream is to be a coach for Indian basketball and establish a good place for players to practice in,” she says.For now she is looking forward to her Chilean adventure that begins in March 2008 and she has her sights set on pre-NBA from thereon.last_img

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