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Pardhi XI prepares to face off with Mumbai Police team

Pardhi XI prepares to face off with Mumbai Police team

Author: Prabhat Sharan
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 5, 2006
URL: http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=172465&creation_date=2006-03-05

Introduction: Much maligned nomadic tribe to play against cops in a fortnight, R R Patil to manage Pardhi team

For centuries they've been nomads, barely surviving on the edge of mainstream society, and been hunted by the police and the media as a tribe of criminals. Now, they're trying to change all that.

If all goes to plan, inside the coming fortnight, a Pardhi XI team will fight a Mumbai Police XI crew for cricketing glory, with the blessings of police chief A N Roy and Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil.

While both teams still don't have a captain, their managers have been decided-Patil will be in charge of the Pardhi team, while Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale will manage the police team.

While the match date is not finalised yet, it is scheduled for the coming fortnight. And the Maharashtra Pardhi Panchayat Committee is preparing to have over 25,000 members of the community to come and watch its next generation battle the police, but this time on the scoreboard.

And the sun-beaten faces can barely hold back the excitement. ''I'm all set for the match-and for us it's more than just a match,'' gushes left-hand batsman Sanjay Kale (22), who's aiming for the captain's cap. Ramu Kale, Maharashtra Pardhi Panchayat Committee leader, sees potential for social integration.

''We want to bring our community into the mainstream of society and think this will be the grandest way to end the so-called enmity between us,'' he says. ''I think this unjustified canard has turned into a stigma that pushes people away from us.''

But medium-pace bowler Vilas Pawar never thinks about it, stigma or otherwise. ''I'm from Mumbai and, though still looking for a job... cricket takes up most of my time.''

The boys have been practising on historic Azad Maidan where big names like Ajit Wadekar and Sachin Tendulkar have wielded the willow, and will now have net practice at MIG Club, Bandra, courtesy Patil, who is nearly as excited as the young guns themselves.

While police chief Roy has been told to get his men ready, efforts are on to rope in some of the sport's big names to lend the event star appeal.

And the Pardhi men in white don't have trouble agreeing on their idol: ''Tendulkar,'' the name rings out as one voice. Their favourites from other cricketing nations, though, are a mixed lot. While Kale worships Ricky Ponting, Pawar is a big fan of Andrew Flintoff.

And the names shoot back and forth, and for now at least, they're Indians first, and soon they'll have people cheering for them from the grandstands.

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