Beyond Cricket – Exciting times ahead for cycle lovers in U.P

  Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, might well be on the verge of a cycling revolution. Regarded as the common man’s mode of transport across the country, the humble cycle is set to take centre stage in the state if recent happenings are any indication.

  Back in 2014, Uttar Pradesh’s young and dynamic Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav visited the Netherlands and evinced keen interest in gaining inspiration from the Dutch’s cycling structure. Cycling forms approximately 57 percent of all modes of transportation in the Netherlands and thus the country boasts of a network of top-class cycling tracks and arenas.

  With the seeds of an ambitious plan sown, the Chief Minister eventually announced in March 2015 that Lucknow’s Guru Govind Singh Sports College will be housing the state’s first full-fledged cycling academy.

  Slated to be developed on a 10-acre area with a budget of Rs. 168 crore, it was revealed that the academy and its surrounding hostels would be in the form of a complex. Fittingly, the rooftop of the complex would be in the shape of a bicycle – incidentally the election symbol of Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.

  The primary objective of the plan would be to provide world-class facilities to cyclists and also to serve as a venue where international competitions could be hosted. Emphasis would also be laid on preparing and training students for international level competitions.


  Besides helping professional cyclists to hone their skills, the proposed academy can also be expected to promote the benefits of cycling – both to human health and to environmental purity.

  Arrangements are being made to ensure that as many as 4500 people can be accommodated at one time at the academy, which will be centrally air-conditioned. While the campus would be covered, the rooftop will have provisions for opening in order to hold events in natural light.

  Eight cycle tracks are being planned as part of the velodrome – made of Belgian pine wood, which will solely be used for the purpose of competitions. A separate concrete track will be built for routine practice.

  Later in 2015, the Chief Minster affirmed that Lucknow would soon boast of the country’s largest and most comprehensive cycle track network – of abut 270 kilometres. This would also conform with the state government’s constant efforts to promote green and non-motorised transport.

  Ever since Yadav’s thought-provoking European sojourn, U.P state officials have been busy trying to judge the most feasible options to develop tracks in the capial city.

  With Lucknow’s pollution levels increasing by the day, the vision of the Uttar Pradesh government should be lauded. It is encouraging to see the country’s most populous state take the lead in promoting the many benefits of cycling and make concrete efforts towards making the country more bicycle-friendly.

  Given the potential of cycling in India, such ideas have been hitherto disappointingly been few and far between. Uttar Pradesh can prove to be the guiding light in this respect. 

  It remains to be seen whether other state governments cash in on the increasingly health-conscious mindsets of the Indian populace as well as the desire of athletes to excel beyond conventional sports.

  Here’s hoping that the inauguration of the cycle academy will pave the way for a much-needed, healthier cycling environment in India. 


In Focus – Namibia’s Sunday to remember

  Unheralded Namibia produced one of the greatest shocks in youth cricketing history as they toppled defending champions South Africa by two wickets in a gripping Group A match of the 2016 Under-19 World Cup at Cox’s Bazar.

  Needing nothing less than a win to stay alive in the competition, South Africa crumbled in spectacular fashion after deciding to bat first. Having already dished out an ordinary performance against Bangladesh, their batsmen simply imploded in the face of some disciplined pace bowling from their neighbours.

  18-year-old Fritz Coetzee set the tone by removing the openers in his first two overs itself. This excellent start was enough to galvanise the rest of the pack as the so-called ‘minnows’ refused to remove their feet from the throats of the ‘big boys’.

  Michael van Lingen, another 18-year-old, ripped through the middle order as South Africa fell from a shaky 35/2 to a hopeless 37/6 in just 15 balls. Further sorrow was in store for the champions as they lost two more wickets with barely half the overs finished. The score read a scarcely-believable 60/8 and it could not have been worse.

  Willem Ludick attempted a revival with a patient 42 from number eight, but the final total of 136/9 in their allotted 50 overs was far from convincing. Van Lingen (4/24) and Coetzee (3/31) shared seven victims between them while 19-year-old captain Zane Green had a sublime outing, pouching five catches behind the wicket.

  The bowlers had done their job, now all the batsmen had to do was hold their nerves and see their side to a famous win. However, it was not going to be easy as the bruised Proteas struck first blood, removing both openers to have the score at 10/2. In walked Lohan Louwrens, all of 16 years old.

  Louwrens’ maturity belied his years as he built a highly creditable innings under pressure. Undeterred by the wickets falling around him, he set his sights on achieving the modest target. At 74/5, the contest could have gone either way but Louwrens found an able partner in Charl Brits.


      The Namibia Under-19 team rejoice after beating South Africa in their crucial group match of the Under-19 World Cup (source – rob)

  The pair shared a stand of 52 for the sixth wicket, and in spite of a late flurry of three wickets for ten runs, Namibia’s young guns ensured that they became the first sporting unit from their country to reach the quarterfinals of a major event. Louwrens remained unbeaten on 58 while Coetzee hit the winning single, much to the joy of his teammates.

  Earlier in the week, Nepal had seen off New Zealand to enter the quarterfinals. The success of Namibia and Nepal is yet another reminder of how the presence of the non-Test playing nations can add excitement to a global tournament. Such are the peformances that can inspire future generations to take up the game.

  Unfortunately, the closed-door mindset of the ICC neutralises the efforts of these young cricketers who undoubtedly aspire to play for the senior team at the World Cup. With the 2019 ‘World Cup’ slated to have just ten teams, it is hard to see how they can remain motivated when there is virtually no scope to qualify for the game’s premier event.

  While it would be wishful thinking to hope for the ICC to change its stance in the near future, this result has the potential to serve as a shot in the arm for Namibian cricket. Such a landmark win over their celebrated neighbours who were defending the title can do wonders to the profile of the game in the country.

  Interestingly, this is not the first time that Namibia Under-19 have collected a big scalp on the world stage. Back in the 2002 edition in New Zealand, they had beaten Sri Lanka by four wickets. Pace bowler Burton van Rooi – who was to play for the senior side in the 2003 World Cup – was the hero of that game with 4/27.

  Namibia will now face heavyweights India in the quarterfinal on the coming Saturday. The Under-19’s success story has come as a ray of positivity to the country’s cricket fraternity, which was jolted by the unfortunate death of their star batsman Raymond van Schoor last November.

  Moreover, earlier in 2015, the senior side had missed out on a spot in the World Twenty20 by a whisker when they were knocked out by Oman in a must-win game at the qualifying tournament. This loss also meant that they squandered a chance to secure full T20 international status.

  Namibia’s win against South Africa was preceded by a comprehensive nine-wicket defeat of Scotland, and thus an eight-wicket defeat in the final group game against hosts Bangladesh did not have any bearing on their passage to the next round.

  Irrespective of how the Namibians perform in the quarterfinal against India, they have done enough to prove that if given adequate opportunities, there is no reason why a supposed underdog team cannot achieve success against more experienced opposition.