Chris Maume: Sport on TV
Servant's son Rohit proves a cut above Pune elite
Saturday 22 March 2008
There are 100 million schoolboys in India, apparently, and they all want to play cricket for their country. Two featured in the beautifully observed documentary series Indian School (BBC 2, Wednesday), in a graphic example of why the ranks of professional sport are packed with rags-to-riches stories.
Ishwar lives in a gated community called Utopia, goes to the poshest school in Pune and attends, at great cost to his parents, the academy at Pune Cricket Club. Rohit shares one room with his parents and sisters on the poor side of town. Both lads are trying to get into the first XI and there's a trial match coming up.
Normally Rohit wouldn't even get past the grand front gate, but his dad does menial work at the club and Rohit was spotted by coach Sanjay one day messing with a bat while his dad was working. Since then he's been at the academy for free. "Sanjay is my guru," Rohit says. "I look up to him, as he has given me everything." He's making his father proud, too. "The members here say, 'That servant's son plays well.' I feel good when people say that."
Rohit, who has a quiet determination about him, knows that in sporting terms he's not necessarily at a disadvantage. "There's a big difference between me and the other boys here," he observes. "They come here for fun. But for someone like me who doesn't have anything, everything depends on cricket."
And it shows. In the trial, Ishwar's team bats first. He faces Rohit. The first ball's a beauty; second ball, caught and bowled. Seeking 171 to win, Rohit opens. He bats, and bats, and bats. His team-mates fall around him, and with 170 on the board, he faces Ishwar. First ball: not bad. Second ball: Rohit whacks it for the winning run.
Ishwar doesn't make the cut but Rohit's place is secure, and there's a bonus: the captaincy. "I know I can play for India," he says. "I want to be able to build a big house for my family." You get the feeling he'll do it, too.
One day Rohit may find himself supplying the market for sporting memorabilia. That happened to Graham Gooch, who took the bat with which he made his famous 333 for England to a Sport Relief edition of Antiques Roadshow (BBC 1, Sunday). Other items included the 2006 Premier League winner's medal thrown into the crowd by Jose Mourinho, and two of Andre Agassi's balls from the 1992 Wimbledon final.
The owner was his driver, invited in by him after she'd driven him home. He offered her the shirt he'd worn in the final. Astonishingly, she said no. "It was a bit sweaty," she said. A bit sweaty? He signed the balls instead, but I think that ranks as a missed opportunity. Not something Rohit would countenance, you feel.
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