'We have produced results'

V. GANESAN

Vinoo Mammen’s whole-hearted laughter reflects his spirit. The Chairman and Managing Director of MRF shares his thoughts with Sportstar.

Question: When and how did the idea of establishing the Pace Foundation take shape?

Answer: This is the 20th year of the MRF Pace Foundation. It was my younger brother, the late Ravi Mammen, who got the idea and developed it. He, sadly, lost his life under unfortunate circumstances, and the responsibility fell on me. It was not easy in the beginning, but we have done a good job. We had quick success when Vivek Razdan was picked for the 1989 tour of Pakistan. He went on to have a successful tour. Subrata Banerjee soon followed in Razdan’s footsteps.

Can you tell us how Dennis Lillee got the job?

He came here as a visitor in 1987. He liked what he saw, and to our surprise, accepted our offer. It has been a wonderful relationship so far. I must also acknowledge the work of S. R. Ratnam and T. A. Sekar at the Pace Foundation.

The Pace Foundation has grown since its early days. Now it is an international school for pace bowlers…

In 1992, I told Lillee, “Dennis, we have to go international” and he jumped on the idea. It is not easy to run a learning school of this nature, it involves a lot of time, effort and money. We have kept going, against all odds.

Are you satisfied with the response to the Pace Foundation?

We have a MoU with the Australian cricket board, our cricketers go there and their players come here. Every country in the world sees the MRF Pace Foundation as a great centre of learning, sends its best bowlers here. Actually, in 1996, the Pace Foundation was the first private academy to be recognised by the Australian Board. Apart from being a rehabilitation centre for the injured and the out of form bowlers, it is also seen as a finishing school. Bowlers from the English county sides come here.

We also have a MoU with Griffith University in Australia for interaction in the area of sports medicine and sports psychology. The Indian bowlers who travel to train here come on their own. There is no formal arrangement with the BCCI.

Does it bother you?

Yes. I do get frustrated. I also feel sad. Pakistan’s Mohammed Asif came here as a young bowler and improved much under Lillee. The Sri Lankans have utilised the facilities so well. Mashrafe Mortaza of Bangladesh trained here before the World Cup and jolted India in the West Indies. Why cannot our young boys utilise these facilities? We have done the job, produced pacemen. From 2000, as many as 10 pacemen from the Foundation have played for India. This is a high conversion rate. We have also organised seminars involving coaches, sports psychologists, biomechanists, fitness trainers and physios. For this we also invited eminent and qualified persons from abroad.

What are your most satisfying moments?

We had a vision which came true in 2004 when four full-time pacemen from the Foundation travelled with the Indian team to Australia. Then, three pacemen from here played in the second Test in the West Indies last year. Australian Prime Minister John Howard visited the Foundation last year and had words of appreciation for the facilities here.

S. Dinakar