Forty-eight thousand participants. Three thousand man force to manage the event spread across 239 tehsils in three States. And, a commitment of INR 10 crore. This is the mega Wonder Cement plans to celebrate, strengthen and savour cricket. The vision of Vivek Patni, young and dynamic director of the cement company.
The brainchild of the young entrepreneur, industrialist Vivek Patni, the “Cricket Mahotsav” is a mega event for all to celebrate, feel and enjoy cricket with a seriousness to support the identified talent with training and scholarships.
The event has potential to create a Guinness World Record for the maximum mass participation in a single cricket tournament. But the Saath-7 concept of seven-member teams playing seven-over-a-side makes the seriousness of the entire exercise questionable. Seven bonus runs for having a female player in the squad will further dilutes that competitive aspect of the game. However, that is Patni’s CSR initiative to increase grass root level involvement and women empowerment.
On the serious side of the game, the cricket fest is backed by the 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev. The selected players get a chance to hone their skills at the Wonder Cement Cricket Academy in at Udaipur.
The young Wonder Cement director Vivek Patni in an exclusive chat with insidesport.co shared the vision and plans for his dream project. Here are the excerpts.
Insidesport Desk: It is not just the format Saath-7 , but your initiative is unique in many other ways. Please share more details about the Khel Mahotsav.
Vivek Patni: Khel Mahotsav as the name would suggest is a celebration of the sport that connects entire India. We have created a format for bigger mass engagement in terms of participation. When you have 48,000 people competing in one single tournament, you need to finish the matches fast. So, we decided to have a seven overs a side tournament for seven-member teams. The format Saath-7 also gives off the feeling of coming together.
Women’s empowerment is another object. Teams are encouraged to have female players on the side. Team fielding a female player in the seven gets a seven-run bonus. Last year a 65-year-old lady had participated in the tournament.
IS: Khel Mahotsav is a massive exercise that starts from a tehsil level competition and culminates into the three-State championship. How, is the entire event structured.
VP: It is a long exercise, but we are committed to the cause of celebrating happiness through cricket. There is a team of 3,000 dedicated managers with different skill sets to ensure the seamless conduct of this event, which has an INR 10 crore budget. As I have shared earlier there will be over 48,000 participants from all age groups, cast, creed, different strata of society, including some serious cricketers.
While amateurs play for fun and fitness, serious contenders can get long-term benefits.
IS: How do serious cricketers benefit by playing seven-overs, seven-member-a-side game, which might even have women competitors who might not have played the sport at all?
VP: We want to give everyone a chance and a platform to perform. The Saath-7 platform gives them an opportunity to showcase their basic talent. Some of them come for fun. Like there was a 65-year-old who participated in the Saath-7 competition with all seriousness. She would have never ever thought of getting such an opportunity and platform. The women who are coming out to the field of play through this CSR activity normally come from a society and region where females are still not liberal enough to move alone beyond their residential premises.
The serious talent gets an opportunity to train at the Wonder Cement Cricket Academy in Udaipur. The best players picked during the Khel Mahotsav get the option to hone their skills at our academy, which is among the best cricket training facilities in the region.
Two of our academy boys Ashok Menaria and Dishant Yagnik have represented Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League.
We have assured that while all get an opportunity and platform to play, the serious cricketers don’t get neglected.
IS: You have had Kapil Dev to launch the Khel Mahotsav. How deeply is the former world record holder, cricket legend involved with your project?
VP: We had shared our vision and plans with Kapil Dev. He readily accepted to be the part of our project, which he felt was a great CSR initiative for rural India. It is not possible for him to be a part of our day to day activities. But you may gauge his involvement from the fact that he had announced an INR 1 lakh prize money from his side for the best player of the tournament. He has promised to be present at the final on December 24 and give that cash prize. His association brings lots of value to our event.
IS: Why only cricket? The area of your operation is rich in various sporting talent.
VP: We have been doing fairly well for other sports as well. We have been supporting champion weightlifter Rajkumari Yadav for the past three years. We have backed the Jaipur Olympics, which featured around 12,000 students from across the State, we were part of the Rajasthan swimming competition. We have been supporting and will continue to support sports and sportspersons in the region.
IS: There is special consideration for women? What is the idea of having an all-women team or having mixed teams? What is the philosophy behind this unprecedented team combination for a cricket?
VP: This Saath-7 is also about women empowerment. In some of the region we are covering through Khel Mahotsav, women are not even allowed to go beyond their houses. That’s not the way how our progressive India treats its women. So we decided to have a format which will promote the thought of women empowerment and liberalization. This is a way to motivate girls and their families to come out of homes and play.
IS: So it is something like ‘Beti Padhao, beti khilaao’?
VK: Yes. It is a message “Beti ko Khilaao” – Let the daughter play.