Monday, January 18, 2021

A Chetan Chauhan bat for charity… signed by the visiting Indian cricket team

Reading Time: 6 minutes 

Indian cricket great Chetan Chauhan may never have played in Africa, but a small part of his legacy will soon make its way there.

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His Adelaide-based ex-wife Anita Chauhan has donated some 200 of his signature bats to Australian charity Grassroots Cricket, which works with disadvantaged kids in southern Africa.

One particular bat from the collection though, is destined for an even more special cause – it will be auctioned to raise funds for the said charity.

Below Chetan Chauhan’s signature, this special bat features the signatures of each of the players in the Indian team currently touring Australia.

Adrian Oosthuizen, Sydney-based Director of Grassroots Cricket, told Indian Link, “They all signed the bat on the last day of the match following their disastrous defeat on the third day.”

Perhaps this little detail will add to the significance of the bat as a keepsake item.

Anita Chauhan observed, “I think the Indian team rose to the occasion and showed that even in defeat they were looking at something higher and brighter. It was a great gesture.”

Anita Chauhan

Adrian agreed that the bat can be a special souvenir. “It is an unusual tour in unusual times, given that it took place at all. The England tour of South Africa had to be cancelled, and at this point in time, we are not sure whether the Sydney Test in early Jan will go ahead at all.”

To learn more about the special Chetan Chauhan bat signed by Kohli’s men, head to www.grassrootscricket.com.au.

Aussie links in Chetan Chauhan’s life

Chetan Chauhan lost his life to COVID-19 on 16 August this year. He was a minister in the Uttar Pradesh State Government when he died.

He played 40 tests for India, from 1969 to 1981. As a player he is best remembered for opening alongside cricket great Sunil Gavaskar. Later he served as coach and administrator, and became Manager of the Indian cricket team, most famously during its 2007-08 Australia tour when the Monkeygate scandal played out.

Yet the Aussie links in his life go further back.

After retiring from internationals, Chetan returned to Australia to play cricket.

The longest serving Indian openers, Sunil Gavaskar (left) and Chetan Chauhan (right). Source: Twitter

He became captain-coach of the Adelaide Cricket Club in the early 1980s, while he took on a job with ANZ. Gordon Greenidge and Rodney Hogg were teammates. The club lists him as top run scorer for his team in the 1983-84 season.

Team members today remember him as popular for mentoring younger players (and for once turning up for a club do dressed as Gandhi, and proceeding to deliver a speech in Hindi, translated by Anita).

The Chauhans had to deal with the tragedy of losing their 19-year-old son Karan in 2005 in a road accident. He was an engineering student at Flinders University. Their other son Vinayak continues to live and work in Melbourne.

Anita Chauhan told Pawan Luthra of Indian Link, “I was looking for an agency where I could donate the bats, as a good cause for underprivileged children. I (chanced upon) Grassroots Cricket one day on Channel 7, and contacted them.”

About Grassroots Cricket

Grassroots Cricket was founded by the Zimbabwe-born Australian Tawanda Karasa in 2013.

“We use the power of cricket to help transform the lives of vulnerable kids by bringing education to communities that need it,” the Brisbane-based Tawanda told Indian Link.

To do this, the charity collects cricket equipment to send over to Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Founder of Grassroots Cricket, Tawanda Karasa.

“While we help kids gain access to the game, we are also helping to grow the game. At the same time, we are using cricket to mobilize the local cricket community to help inspire and educate children.”

When Tawanda first came to Australia in 2008, he was amazed to see that people from all backgrounds played cricket. Growing up in Zimbabwe, the game was reserved for privileged kids only. “Here in Australia, anyone can play. And that is what I wanted for disadvantaged kids back home – to be able to enjoy cricket.”

READ ALSO: Cricket for social justice

After he launched Grassroots Cricket with the help of local partners and Zimbabwe Cricket, he was able to facilitate a visit by the touring Australian cricket team to a school in Harare in 2018. “It is a school that has no water, no electricity, no benches or even blackboards. The Aussie team made a donation on behalf of Grassroots Cricket, but also donated on their own – a portion of their prize money, and textbooks and stationery for the kids.”

Channel 9 gave good coverage, and then donations began to pour in from local sports companies like Havas Sport and Equipment and Gabba Sporting Products.

Today, Tawanda has a growing team of volunteers lending a helping hand. Like Adrian Oosthuizen and Derek Dreyer, who drove to Adelaide to pick up the bats donated by Anita Chauhan.

(Venturing out to Adelaide in Nov 2020 meant working around state border closures by driving via Broken Hill in NSW and returning via Mildura in Victoria, just before the lockdown in Adelaide!)

One-time cricket writer Adrian Oosthuizen is impressed with the Grassroots Cricket, describing it as a model that can be used anywhere in the world for societal development.

Adrian takes a break to play a bit of cricket on the 3,500 km round trip to collect the bats.

“Cricket is just a conduit here,” he observed. “While it will help with sporting ability, it will also help give a sense of stability and security, and improve health and social standards.”

The Chetan Chauhan Stride Bat was manufactured in various sizes for children, he revealed, in a business venture that never progressed. “Some of the kids these bats will go to, will have never had a bat in their lives,” he said.

While Anita Chauhan kept three bats for herself as special mementos, Rob Ball, another volunteer who kept a bat, saw an opportunity with it when the Indian team played a test in his city.

Sport as change agent

Grassroots Cricket is not the first time Tawanda has harnessed the power of sport to transform lives. He has applied the very same model once before, with soccer.

Himself from an impoverished background in a trouble-torn country, his childhood years were spent being moved from squatter camp to settlement colonies, even living on the street.

“At one of the camps I befriended an Australian UNICEF official who offered to pay school fees for me. I asked him instead if he would help me start a soccer project.”

Amongst the kids around him he had identified heightened risky behaviour. Luring them in with the promise of soccer, he began maths and science lessons.

Rob Ball, a volunteer at Grassroots Cricket.

“When I stumbled upon the Homeless World Cup on the Internet, I applied to participate.”

As founder-coordinator of the Zimbabwe team, he led tours to South Africa, Denmark and Australia. At the end of the 2008 Australia tour, he applied for refugee status.

Today his Grassroots Cricket has celebrities such as Greg Chappell and Heath Streak as patrons, Melbourne Stars’ Hilton Cartwright and Zimbabwe cricketer Vusi Sibanda as Ambassadors, and Zimbabwe cricketer Sean William as chairperson of Grassroots Cricket in Zimbabwe.

And of course, community members such as Anita Chauhan who contact him directly with donations.

“I never dreamt that the wife of Chetan Chauhan would call and talk to me,” Tawanda revealed. “It’s very inspiring to meet so many compassionate people out there who want to see disadvantaged kids have a headstart in their life. I feel encouraged, and inspired to continue my work.”

READ ALSO: Steve Waugh’s India: where cricket gives hope and happiness

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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