The year was 1951. The same year when the first ever Asian Games was held in New Delhi, JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was published and colour television was introduced in the US. The birth of limited overs cricket tournament occurred in the same year. Tripunithura, known for its many cultural distinctions, is also a storehouse of the history of the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin. But, not many would be aware that it was also here where limited over cricket - a format that is globally standardised - first originated.
It all started at the Palace Oval Ground in Tripunithura. The ground was a gift by the British Government to the Princes Club (later rechristened as the Tripunithura Cricket Club) - a club owned and maintained by the princes of the Cochin Royalty.
The venue used to host multi-day cricket matches for clubs and for the Britishers stationed at Fort Kochi since the early 20th century.
"Cricket used to be played in Kerala much before the 1950s in Thalassery, Fort Kochi and Durbar Hall. But it was in
Tripunithura that cricket started being played in an
organised way," said Sandeep, one of the club's oldest members.
Kelappan Thampuran, who played for Tripunithura Cricket Club and a man with a sharp cricketing brain, was using the ground as a laboratory to conceive a format which broke away from the traditional way of playing cricket - the multi day format. Kelappan was an active cricketer at the TCC and played for Travancore-Cochin team in the Ranji Trophy. He was also the first secretary of the Kerala Cricket Association.
Kelappan along with other esteemed cricketers from the state like Ravi Achan and KR Varma went about creating a tournament with new rules, framework and model.
The tournament was named the Pooja Cricket Tournament which is considered as the first ever unofficial one-day tournament in the world.
It replaced the multi-day cricket matches which more often than not failed to
In the earlier editions, there were no restrictions or limit to how many overs a bowler could bowl out of the 50 overs. Rules were brought up as the tournament went on.
The cricketing archives will show that the first ever
international one-day match was between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1971 after a Test match between the two sides was getting washed out before it was turned into a one-day game.
Twenty years prior to that, Pooja Cricket was invented and it was well ahead of its time.
The legacy of Pooja Cricket Tournament is that it has run uninterrupted till today at the Oval Ground. "It was the first time Kerala cricketers got to play against players from other states. Unlike today, the international calendar was less hectic which meant most cricketers playing for India participated in the tournament," the official said.
Legends like Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Syed Kirmani are some of the stars who took part in the tournament.
Tournaments like Pooja cricket became the platform for players like S Sreesanth, Tinu Yohannan, Sandeep Warrier, Sachin Baby among others to get noticed at the start of their careers.
Players managed to find a place in Kerala's Ranji team thanks to their performance at such club level tournaments. Today, the Palace Oval Ground is KCA's high-performance centre which is being remodeled to meet the needs and demands of the next crop of cricketers from the state. A venue that has a storied past has become a meeting point of the past and the present.
"We are conducting many tournaments and Pooja Cricket remains the most important of them. We also conduct a tournament which is held in memory of Kelappan Thampuran. The spectators have reduced because there is so much cricket going on but it still holds a lot of significance. It is a tournament with a lot of history and we will keep conducting the tournament every year," Biju John, secretary of Tripunithura Cricket Club said.