The Final Blog

The year was 2011. Most of the future Zolon players, who played together in the Bengals team, were unable to play together that year after leaving their former team. Most of them played in different teams that year. During the off-season Hemanth and I met and decided to work together. Zolon had just been relegated to D2 from D1 (there was no PD then) after a tough season. Many of the Zolon players were at a different stage in their lives, with young kids taking more and more of their weekend time. Hemanth was looking for support in rebuilding the team. We joined hands to do just that. Many of the former Bengals teammates came together with two goals: Play together and try to get the team back into the upper division. It wasn’t going to be easy, as some of the players had settled nicely in their new teams and wanted to continue to play there, which was completely understandable (Roshan, Adil). I’m glad that the new Zolon team accomplished those goals, and more.

Looking back, if someone had told me that over the next 5 years Zolon would win 4 WCL 40 over Championships across the 3 Divisions, and will win 2 t20 Championships and numerous other trophies and would be in the playoffs every year, I wouldn’t have believed it. There was a lot of hard work put in over these 5 years, especially by Hemanth. He is the major reason why the team achieved great success. His love and passion for the team are unparalled. And it was all unselfish. He never played a single game during these 5 years. Yet, he would come to every game that he could (which was almost all of them). He would pick up players from their homes, he would make sure that the players had refreshments, proper kit, etc. He took care of all the logistics. There is no way the team would have succeeded without all of his efforts. Another key reason for the team’s success, once Zolon was in PD, was the support the club received from our sponsors, ZolonTech. Ram, Gautham, Zak, Vish, Asela, Sam, Manish and all the employees of the company who came out to watch our games provided great motivation. I will always be grateful for their support. I remember several instances when we either lost badly on the field or were having issues with the rules/policies implemented by the EC that impacted us greatly (ie. Not promoting winner of D1 to PD when PD was constituted) but Ram, Gautham and the rest of the ZolonTech executive team kept encouraging us. I remember Ram telling me, “Anurag, don’t worry. We are with you. You just go out and do your best”. This encouragement went a long way in motivating us. The other encouragement I received from them is when some people would not be happy with something I’d written in a blog, and would reach out to Ram (either in writing or in person) and complain about what I had written and would request ZolonTech to withdraw support from the club. He would listen to them patiently but never once told me what I should or shouldn’t write. He always respected my freedom to express my views as I see fit. There were never any strings attached to the support we received from ZolonTech. They just wanted us to do our best and have fun doing it. Thanks ZolonTech for everything!

For any sportsman, playing a team sport, the most important aspect is the relationship with his teammates. Our teammates made playing cricket such joy. The bond that was developed with all the players with whom I played over these wonderful 5 years is something I will always treasure. Many of these friendships will be life-long and I’m happy for that. I will be eternally grateful to all the players who decided to play with us in D2 when they were playing in upper division teams so we could all play together. These guys put their relationships ahead of their desire to play at the highest level. I feel so privileged that we were teammates. As the team grew, new players joined us and new friendships developed. Playing with each and every one of them has been a pleasure. I’m thankful to all of them.

After the end of last season, both Hemanth and I felt that it was now time for us to step aside. We felt we had spent enough time and energy and it was time to pass the torch. With Julius, Juber and Tanvir willing to take the leadership role, Hemanth and I went to the ZolonTech executives and informed them of our decision. They understood and wished the team well. So now the team will begin a new journey, under new leadership and a new name. I’m glad that we are leaving the team in good hands and in a good place (PD). I’m sure under the new leadership the team will form its own identity and will compete hard. Both Hemanth and I will be cheering for their success. This is the circle of life. One thing ends, another begins.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this league since 1982. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 34 years. It just doesn’t seem that long. But before I end this article, I want to say something about the WCL leadership. Since this is an article about the last 5 years with Zolon, I will only focus on the WCL leadership during these 5 years. Shoaib Ahmed has been at the helm of the league during this time and I’ve seen him grow as a leader. In his early days, when he would make a mistake he wasn’t confident enough to admit it. But as he gained more experience, he also grew in confidence, and was much more accepting of any mistake that he would make. Overall, I think he and the EC have done a very good job. He has put in tremendous amount of time, effort and emotional capital into the job. During his presidency, the league has seen tremendous growth and he and the EC deserve a lot of credit. My best wishes are for the leadership team and hope they take the league to even greater heights. I also want to specifically highlight Nikhil Deshpande. He works in the background, never seeking to be in the limelight but is a very diligent and hard working guy. I’ve gotten to know him very well, and there is nobody with higher integrity than him. His contributions to this league are immeasurable.

To the membership of the league I would like to say that I hope you will continue to hold the league leadership accountable. Appreciate their good work, but also question their decision making. Ask them to explain their reasons for those decisions. The key to success of any organization is the accountability of its leaders. I want to wish every team in the league across all Divisions great success. Here are some of things I hope happen in the future (in no particular order):

  • Shoaib Ahmed has put his heart and soul in the league but playoff success has eluded his team. Hope he is rewarded in the post season for all that he has done in the league
  • Rikin Parikh has also put in a lot of emotional (and financial) capital into bringing his team along. Best wishes for his team in the WCL post season as well.
  • It has been great to see Potomac rise from the ashes and become a top quality PD team, thanks to the efforts put in by Rajit. Best wishes for continued success.
  • Good to see Sri Lankan come back into PD, want to see them consolidate their position in PD and be successful.
  • Jamaica has put in a lot of effort in PD and is working hard to make an impact. Would love to see this team do well.
  • Nitro has been a fighting team, but post season has eluded them. Hope they can break that barrier.
  • Cosmos is an exciting team and RaviTeja a star. Wish great success to this team as they try to get back into the playoffs.
  • Tigers and Boyds have been an important part of the PD playoff competition. Hope they can get back there this year.
  • I hope Urbana is able to find it’s feet in PD and enjoy the competition.
  • Virginia was the best team last year, and a very deserving champion. Hope they continue to raise the competition in the league.
  • Hope the teams that got promoted to higher Divisions prove worthy of their promotion
  • Hope teams that got relegated find their way back to the high Division
  • And finally, I hope all teams have lots of fun this year

This is my last blog post and since Zolon Challengers cricket club will no longer exist, very soon I will close this website as well. It has been a wonderful journey these last 5 years and I want to thank everyone who read the articles posted here. Although I won’t be writing anymore, I do hope to see many of you on the cricket fields as I will come, as time permits, to watch and support the league that I’ve been a part of for the past 34 years. It has been a wonderful journey and all of you have been a part of this journey. Thanks everyone!


 

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