Another Sporting Diamond

My first visit to Jamshedpur was in 1996 as a sales manager with CEAT Tyres. It was if I can vaguely remember to discuss the sales budget and outstanding payment matters with TELCO (As Tata Motors was called then). I also remember the difficult period that the automobile industry was going through at that time. Hence collecting outstanding payments was the brutal task assigned to any fresh and young sales manager.

When I reached Tata Nagar (as Jamshedpur is also known as) station late last Thursday evening, I was pleasantly surprised and rejuvenated to be breathing in this beautiful city at an Air Quality Index of 86. An unknown figure to a Mumbaikar. This despite the city being home to large industries such as Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Tin Plate and many more.

Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, the founder of the Tata Group was the visionary who planned and developed this industrial town. While the name Tata Nagar has stuck for obvious reasons, many from the younger generation endearingly call it “Jampot.” The day after I left Jamshedpur on March 3rd is celebrated every year as the Founder’s Day. The city was gorgeously lit up and every citizen was in an ebullient and celebratory mood. It was in 1919 during that period of peak violence in India’s freedom struggle that Jamshedpur was set up as the first planned industrial city in the country. Ever since it has grown from strength to strength not just on the back of its industrial might, but more importantly on parameters of cleanliness, safety, and quality of life. No wonder, it has also slowly but surely transformed itself into one of India’s key sporting epicentres.

And this was the reason for my visit. I was delighted and in wonder and awe when I visited the JRD Tata Sports Complex, home not just to Jamshedpur Football Club but other sports such as archery, swimming, adventure sports, hockey, track & field, tennis and many more. Next to the complex, is the famous Keenan cricket stadium of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association, the very place where MS Dhoni came into public limelight for the first time. Tata Steel has been the sponsor and in charge of maintaining and running the various facilities at the JRD Tata Sports Complex. Apart from world class training facilities, it offers a structured grass roots program for talent from across Jharkhand predominately and other states to make a mark in sports. It has a strong pool of coaches with the legendary Bachendri Pal driving the adventure sports program. In addition, with the Naval Tata Foundation, it has an independent program to develop hockey talent in the state.

The Naval Tata Hockey Academy is located a few kilometres from the complex and has an independent program with its own infrastructure for Under 16 and Under 18 boys. They are now building another astro turf pitch for the Under 22 boys and will be adding girls to their program in the next few years. The construction of a separate hostel for the girls was underway when I visited the academy and had lunch with their Project Director, Gurmeet Singh Rao. He is a fellow Mumbaikar who among many has fallen in love with this gorgeous city. The vision and the passion to succeed and more importantly help in the holistic development of the athletes is the core of Tata Steel’s program. Sentiments echoed by Mukul Chaudhari, the Chief of Sports with Tata Steel and Hemant Gupta, the CEO who oversees the operations not just in Jamshedpur but even at the Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre in Bhubaneshwar.

It is always a joy to interact with the people involved in developing sports in India. I was privileged to meet the effervescent and humble Purnima Mahato. She heads the archery coaching program at the complex. She won the silver medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, is a Dronacharya awardee and was recently awarded the Padma Shri. It is such dedicated and selfless coaches like Purnima who are so pivotal in helping raise India’s standards in the world of sports. Another trainer whom I interacted during a day well spent at the complex was Saroj Lakhra. She leads the training and development program at Tata Steel for athletes and she was so proud to flaunt her group of young and talented boys and girls whom she was mentoring; all of them having arrived from the Naxal infested and tribal areas of Jharkhand. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she started telling her wards the importance of mental training to succeed in sports.

The last time I was blown away by the positivity of a city, its sports infrastructure and its people was exactly a year ago when I visited Bhubaneshwar. It is always a pleasure and a feeling of immense satisfaction when one sees that sports in certain pockets of the country is in good hands.

Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens; reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks; earmark areas for Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches.” – Jamshedji Tata

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