University cricket back in the spotlight
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From having to endure cold showers in sub-zero climes, being crammed in dingy unreserved train compartments to sleeping in musty bunkers, the life of a university cricketer has never been a bed of roses. Till some 30 years ago though, the Rohinton Baria Trophy — organised by the All India University (AIU) — remained the cynosure of junior cricketers in India.
And like former Mumbai captain Milind Rege recalls, even some of the high-profile colts around the country were agog to be part of the tournament, the perilous adversities notwithstanding.
It was by starring in the Rohinton Baria after all that the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar, who scored six centuries on the trot for Bombay University, had been thrust into the limelight before promptly going on to earn higher honours.
Those were the heady heights of cricket at the varsity level in the country. Whether it was the inception of age-group tournaments or just a case of neglected stagnation, the tournament slipped into oblivion soon after, with no plausible light at the end of the tunnel. And it's not like Rege's humming a nostalgia-induced dirge when he laments about how university cricket had lost its sheen.
Having been a part of an era where varsity matches were attended by large crowds, and where performances led to recognition, his disappointment is understandable. Prannoy Roy, NDTV's co-chairperson, though always remained enamoured by the feats of the likes of Gavaskar and others at the university level.
"Even though many of whom I mentioned it to laughed at me, I fostered a dream to revive the glory days of university cricket. To make it popular again and probably even turn it into a stepping stone to the Indian team," says Roy.
Out of that dream was born the Toyota University Cricket Championship (TUCC), a unique T20 tournament, pitting the top eight university teams in the country against each other.
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