CHENNAI: Rooftop gardens are no more a rarity, but how about a pitch for cricket practice on the terrace? At a time when state cricket associations across India are trying to upgrade indoor facilities, a city-based entrepreneur has put together a synthetic turf, floodlights and bowling machine to go with a concrete surface that ensure his younger son can sharpen his batting basics at home.
Vijay Shankar’s progress vindicates his father’s emphasis on focussed practice. A regular in state junior sides in formative years, he rose up the ranks after H Shankar felt the all-rounder could get better if hassles associated with daily travel to places far from home were eliminated. In 2010, he rebuilt their Madipakkam residence for an extended terrace to install the equipment. Having excelled for Tamil Nadu’s senior team last season after being on the CSK fringes, Vijay is in the India A squad for matches against Australia A to be played in Chennai this month.
If Shankar’s assessment that there’s no substitute for uninterrupted practice underlines the importance of an eternal prerequisite, his eye for detail shows the extent that modern day parents can go to fulfill the child’s or their own dream. The 100 x 20 feet rectangle is covered by two layers of netting to make sure neighbours or pedestrians don’t complain. Columns supporting nets are padded with cushion to protect balls as well as to reduce the sound of impact. “Convincing his mother was the most difficult part,” chuckles Shankar, who runs an outdoor hoardings business. “Studies were her priority, but his academic record suggested Vijay could manage both. His School (Modern SSS) was very helpful. After checking with him, I made the investment.” The setup cost around `19 lakh and the total revamp a few times more.
An aspiring batsman from Tirunelveli who didn’t quite make it big, Shankar insists this wasn’t a burden. “My father didn’t have the resources to sustain cricketing ambitions. I had to borrow equipment. Now, Vijay wants to play professionally, In business, I’ve seen prompt decisions pay off. Once I made up my mind, there was no looking back,” smiles the 56-year-old, adding he got this idea from a friend, who had set up something similar. Mother Rama Shankar relented once Vijay’s name started appearing in newspapers.
The state association’s Cricketer of the Year last season for valuable contributions in the Ranji Trophy, Vijay wasn’t as upbeat initially. Around 19 at the time, he was conscious that the changes taking place around him were alien to his peers. He felt the pressure of expectations, before things gradually fell in place. Not only has he benefited from training there under coach S Balaji, twins Baba Aparajith and Indrajith are also among those who use the infrastructure that facilitates training at odd hours.
“I had thoughts of failure and things like what if I can’t make it! That put me under pressure. But then I decided to just enjoy myself. Apart from enabling me to train for hours, this has helped my footwork and strengthened certain shots. If no one is around, I can just go there and bowl,” he says. So if you are in Madipakkam and hear a familiar sound in unlikely surroundings, rest assured that it’s Vijay and Shankar showing where there’s a will, there’s room to wield the willow!