Lombard U-15 cricket champs reunite after 25 years

The winning team of the 1996 Lombard under-15 Challenge Cup came together in an online platform to relive the magical moment.

U-15 captain Reetinder Sodhi flaunts the Cup after landing in New Delhi.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Some of them were connecting after more than 20 years but the warmth was unmissable. The winning team of the 1996 Lombard under-15 Challenge Cup came together in an online platform to relive the magical moment at Lord's. "Can't believe it is 25 years since we won that title," said Sarkar Talwar, coach of that team.

It was Talwar's initiative to have this reunion and the players responded from different parts of the country and world. "I am delighted to see the faces of my friends. We were not even 15 when we first met. Credit to Talwar Sir for moulding the team into a winning combination. The love and respect we have for him came from his caring approach to the job. He was honest in team selection. Thanks to him I played so much cricket," said Mohammad Kaif, a key member of the team.

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Kaif was omitted from the camp after the first round. "Yes, I had returned home when Talwar sir fought for my inclusion. Had he not backed me, I wouldn't have even played for Uttar Pradesh. That four-month camp (at Faridabad) laid the foundation for my cricket. Also, I can never forget the experience of taking my first ever flight when we flew to London," recalled Kaif.

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For Reetender Singh Sodhi, the camp and the tournament were unforgettable experiences. "We got some life lessons and importantly we got recognition. The camp was a defining process of our careers because we learnt the importance of teamwork and discipline. The camp was a critical stage of our life and laid the base for our growth. Talwar sir was strict but also caring. To me, every member of the team is a hero. Playing in front of a packed Lord's and winning against Pakistan was a thrilling experience," Sodhi remembered.

One of the members, Gulzar Inder Singh, spoke of the hard work each player put in at the camp. "Sometimes we slept on the terrace because there would be power cuts at the stadium. But that only steeled us. We were always ready and eager to compete," said Gulzar, who now produces films in Hindi cinema and is venturing into Hollywood too.

Talwar was emotional. "I feel happy when I see these boys have done well for themselves. They have grown into men and are enjoying a happy life. They climbed a cricket Everest at Lord's 25 years ago, and I was  blessed to have such a wonderful bunch of youngsters."

The team: Reetender Singh Sodhi (Captain), Mohammad Kaif, Vivek Mahajan, Rajiv Jolly, Ravneet Ricky, Ishan Ganda, Maninder Bola, Pradeep Chawla, Bhavan Chander, Raman Jha, Agam Pandit, Gagandeep Singh, Rajan Gupta and Gulzar Inder Singh.

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