Tihar gets professional cricket squad

Geetanjali AtriNew Delhi, Feb 25 (PTI) The World Cup fervor hasclimbed up the high security walls of Tihar, the country''slargest prison, as it prepares a serious cricketing squad ofinmates including high-profile convicts like Manu Sharma andSantosh Kumar Singh.

The squad of 101 players has been selected by a teamof experts comprising former India coach, Rajendra Pal,cricket legend Kapil Dev along with five other Delhi-basedcoaches after a week-long selection trial.

The formation and training of the squad is a jointinitiative of prison authorities and Divya Jyoti JagratiSansthan, a Delhi-headquartered NGO working for reformation ofprison inmates.

"Teams for future tournaments to be played with otherteams such as corporates will be extracted from this squadthat includes prominent names like Manu Sharma and SantoshKumar Singh," says Pal, who travelled from Dehradun to coachthe squad.

Sharma has been convicted in the Jessica Lall murdercase while Singh is serving term in the Priyadarshani Matoorape and murder case.

A former member of Ranji teams from Delhi, Haryana andUttar Pradesh, Pal is regarded as a very disciplined personand a strict coach by Neeraj Kumar, Director General ofCentral Prisons, Tihar.

For the selection trial, over 250 inmates had beeninvited from all the eights jails in the Central Prisons. Inthe list of final squad, 33 per cent are convicts and theremaining comprise of undertrials.

"The main objective of training the inmates in thesport of their choice is a medium to steer their energies in apositive direction for their overall development," saysVishalanand, spokesperson of the NGO.

After a month long rigorous training, prisonauthorities say they plan to invite teams from outside to playtournaments.

"After the initial training and selection of teams, weplan to make the expert training of inmates a regular featurein Tihar," adds Vishalanand.

"By inviting teams from outside for tournaments wehope to bridge the gap between the inmates and the worldoutside. Also, to enrich the capabilities of the inmates andgiving them an exposure," says Sunil Gupta, PRO Tihar.

The funds for the training and cricket kit for theplayers have been arranged from the Prisoners Welfare fund,though the authorities say they welcome sponsorship forstrengthening the standards of their cricket team training.

In the past, Tihar jail has witnessed many cricketmatches with inmate players being cheered on by ace cricketerslike Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kapil Dev. .

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