Cheteshwar Pujara’s champion act to help underprivileged kids

Pujara said his father, former Saurashtra Ranji player Arvind Pujara, put the idea into his head.

Cheteshwar Pujara has started an academy near Rajkot that offers free coaching to kids in the sport.   -  Bhagya Prakash K

At a time when players appear keen to make the most from their cricket, Cheteshwar Pujara has decided to give back something to the game.

The Indian star has started an academy near Rajkot that offers free coaching to kids in the sport.

“I come from a small town and when I was young, we always lacked facilities. Even now, if kids from middle or lower middle-class families want to buy a bat or any equipment, they can’t afford it,” said the 27-year-old on the sidelines of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 Championship at the Nehru Stadium here on Monday.

“So, we thought of helping these underprivileged kids, we felt it would be the right way to give something back to the game.”

Pujara said his father, former Saurashtra Ranji player Arvind Pujara, put the idea into his head.

“My father was running an academy at the Railway Ground, he used to give free coaching there. I also started there when I was eight,” said the Saurashtra star.

“But after he retired, he had to move out of the Railway ground. After that we used to train at a small place. But players were not getting match practice and growing as much as they should have because of the lack of facilities.”

“So we bought land and made a proper ground. Now, most of the weekends, they play matches on turf wickets and have an idea about how to handle match situations.”

After purchasing the six-acre plot, Pujara said that he spent around Rs 50 lakh to set up the academy.

“At the moment, my dad is running everything. We have some 30 players and since the academy is some 15 kms from Rajkot, we are providing a vehicle from the city to bring players,” he said.

INSPIRING MOVE

And just watching Pujara train at the academy offers plenty of lessons to the youngsters.

“Whenever I am there, I talk to them. I practice there and when youngsters watch me bat, they feel good about it. They way I prepare, the way I play … they can learn a lot from it,” he said.

With a lot of short-format cricket lined up over the next few months, Pujara said that he was adding some variety and spice to his batting.

“Now, we have the IPL coming up and most of the matches are one-dayers and T20 so I’m looking to practise a few new shots.”

“I don’t want to reveal what these shots are but I’m working for the shorter format. Basically, I have a few extra shots which will help me in one-dayers and T20.”