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Croquet in India

[<<] [>>] by Tony Hall
12th July 2001 (International)

I regret to report that the Croquet Federation of India (CFI) is not a federation of active croquet clubs or players.

In Agra (after viewing the Taj Mahal) I managed to find Mr V P Singh, described in the CFI email as Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Croquet Association. I had to explain to him what croquet is. He is a dedicated sports administrator, currently Secretary-General of the Rugby Federation of India (with lots of trophies around his house showing that he was once a most competent player). His email address is If we were to attempt to get croquet going in Agra he would be an ideal man to be the nucleus of a local administration. During our discussion he became enthusiastic to do so, but I was unable to promise to send equipment and coaches to assist.

In Nagpur there is a group (who call themselves the CFI) who have started to play gateball, led by President Mr Ashish Deshmuck, Sec-Gen Mr Pravin Manvatkar. They also call themselves the Gateball Federation of India and some have had sponsored trips to Japan to learn the rules and to get them to initiate the game here. Their equipment has been donated by the World Gateball Union and they are being strongly encouraged by that organisation, which is offering trips to the World Gateball Championships in Japan this year.

A prominent sponsor is Mr Anil Kumar, owner of a beautifully designed and lavish garden complex some miles out of town. He is in the construction and retail shopping industry, drives a large Mercedes-Benz and has interests in two newspapers. He says he is starting production of some movies soon. Last night he hosted a dinner in my honour at the best hotel in town. Today his younger brother, Vijay, is to take me on a "City Tour" of Nagpur, and if it doesn't rain (we are in the monsoon season) we will play some gateball. Both the Kumar brothers speak fluent English, having travelled extensively, but the others are not so fluent and I have trouble sustaining a conversation.

Gateball is played in two locations in Nagpur, at the garden complex out of town and somewhere here in town, which I will see later today. (Despite a population of more than a million, Nagpur is not a large city, with few buildings over six stories and only a small central business district. The airport appears to handle only one aircraft at a time but is being extended at present.) The few players seem to play only when there is a specific reason, such as on the occasion of a party, rather than regularly, although there is some talk of setting a regular evening. Publicity has been sought and obtained. I was shown a fat file of press clippings, better than most croquet clubs would assemble over some years. I was told to expect some journalists later today. My photo has been taken everywhere I go.

One of the group said that if we sent equipment and a couple of coaches they would accommodate and feed them, meeting all in-country expenses, during a, say, five day start-up coaching seminar. Are there any volunteers who would be prepared to pay their own fare here to conduct such a course or courses? I would also need sponsors to provide at least one full set of equipment. Timings would depend on the need to set things up properly and availability of the volunteers.

Tony Hall
World Croquet Federation


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