Vikram Vijay Chandan and Gurgaon Cricket are household names for budding cricketers in that part of the city. Quite simply, Gurgaon Cricket is a platform where Chandan, a corporate cricketer, came up with a plan to create a community where passionate cricket fans would get a chance to learn more about the unsung local heroes.
For Chandan, the vision was a lot bigger. This would also be a one-stop shop that to try and help aspiring cricketers find a way forward -- be it by using some contacts to help them find better training places or venues to play and get an opportunity to showcase their talent.
When I sat down to talk to Vikram Vijay Chandan, the instant realization was that he was one of the many Indian kids who aspired to play cricket for the country at some stage in their lives.
Life beyond being a professional and love for cricket
He might be the Associate Vice-President of Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India, but there is a cricketer in him who wants to do more than just play cricket.
At 42, Chandan has led a life functioning as a corporate employee during the week, and as a passionate cricketer on weekends. And while at it, he had this "I had a dream" moment that now puts him on a journey where he intends to make a difference in the lives of aspiring cricketers.
'I've been playing cricket all my life in East Delhi and coming from a middle-class family. I am a wicketkeeper-batsman," he explains with gusto.
His father dreamt of being a cricketer, and when that dream didn't materialize, the wish was passed on to the son hoping he could make an impact and realize that dream.
By his own admission, Chandan was one of those much sought-after cricketers who would be asked to play for different teams. However, the ambition went on the backburner once he started working at a relatively early age, but by no means was it ever extinguished.
Life dealt an unfortunate blow to Chandan when his son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This meant that the hope that his son would realize Chandan's dreams went away.
And while life treated him well on the professional front, Chandan stuttered when it came to personal life and his son's CP just added to the pain. At this point, he sought professional help from a therapist and her words rang clearly in his mind.
He explained his recurring dream to her: "There are a couple of books, and then there is one cricket bat against the wall," he recollected.
The therapist asked if he was a reader, which was answered in the affirmative. "And what of the bat?" to which he said he was a cricketer.
The response was almost instantaneous. "You need to get back to cricket, you're missing it," she said, and that's how there was a comeback to playing the sport he was so passionate about.
The return also had a tinge of emotion to it. Chandan would be doing what would be a difficult task for his young kid -- playing for him and doing the things he would find hard to do. Quite simply, he would play on behalf of his son.
Gurgaon Cricket and the vision
Having played 215 matches as a corporate cricketer, Chandan has quite the record, having scored 3529 runs at a strike rate of over 100. As a cricketer, his numbers made sure h was always in demand. This didn't go unnoticed by his wife, who felt he could do something around cricket, and that's how Gurgaon Cricket came to life.
"Why don't you do something around cricket?" she asked. Perhaps that was the spark Chandan needed. January 2021 saw him invest in a selfie stick and that meant covering an expansive 100 grounds that had cricket being played.
The page's description on Facebook reads: "If Cricket is your passion & you like to play, talk, share and get any information related to Cricket then this page belongs to you. 24*7, We are trying to create a community of cricket lovers who Eat, Sleep & Drink Cricket."
Reviews of the grounds followed. "At times you pay 6,000 rupees to take part in team games and you end up having good umpires and bad wickets..."
This was followed by interviews with some budding cricketers, talented players and also some big names in the sport. The process was simple.
"Never keep a script. I never write a question. I just go with the flow and ask questions," he explained.
The Gurgaon Cricket Facebook page also showcased a series named "Heroes," and these weren't essentially the Virat Kohlis or Shikhar Dhawans, but they were, in their own right, proven matchwinners who Chandan would interview when he went to cover these matches at various grounds across the city.
These players would be profiled, and that would mean there was a place where these talented players could get some recognition that in some way could pave their future.
Chandan realized during his review and reporting that there was a need for corporates to switch off. Personally, it made sense for him too.
"At the time, I never thought that I have a CP child. I have a wife, my daughter is a teenager... my mom is not well. Well, there are good and bad things. I don't think about anything except cricket."
On the Gurgaon Cricket front, playing for various teams over the years gave him a chance to build contacts, which he would use to guide and assist young cricketers.
"I used to play for different teams that helped me have a big network of people," he added.
The efforts bore fruit. Chandan's work was noticed by the top grounds in Gurgaon and Gurgaon Cricket garnered quite the buzz after he was invited to come and cover the games. The ultimate aim also has an element of human interest to it.
"None of this was for the money," he said. "My goal is to bring more and more corporate people to this platform and give them some space to switch off. That type of depression, that type of heart attack, nobody's getting that switch off time, actually."
Chandan's work has also seen Sony give their nod of approval when it comes to making YouTube videos. "Keep on with this," they said.
The Gurgaon Cricket page, currently with 760 followers, has slowly garnered the attention of local cricketers across the country who have reached out to Chandan for help. He would answer their question, and also pass on any contact that would help these youngsters get a chance to play and possibly make a mark.
Quite recently, Chandan covered a cricket academy called SportsCube. In addition, he has interviewed big IPL names in Manvinder Bisla and Sachin Rana. It was high-profile work by Gurgaon Cricket that saw him pick the brains of the best in the business.
The COVID-19 pandemic challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic inevitably impacted the cricket being played in Gurgaon as well. And while Chandan found it challenging at the time, he was relieved to have started playing again in the second half of last year as well.
"It was quite challenging," Chandan remarked. "No doubt, because I started late. I was just going through my match reviews of some matches yesterday, and from what I saw, I will be amazed to see that I started playing again in the month of August."
"What helped was the fact that cricket was not a contact sport. The norms of using sanitizers were followed and coupled with this was the responsibility to stay safe and have fun at the same time."
The need for more platforms like Gurgaon Cricket
Chandan instantly agreed when asked if the country needs more communities like Gurgaon Cricket to better promote local talent.
He also recalls a time when he told one of his equally cricket-passionate friends living in Jaipur to start a similar page that would help the cricketers of the city.
"That is my dream, at some point, I want to make Gurgaon Cricket like a country-wide India cricket. All these pages will merge someday and people will see a talent pool. Gurgaon has that many grounds that just helped his case in unearthing some really good talent.
"I am trying to build a foundation for these boys," he said. The challenge is real, but Cha believes that his vision of Gurgaon Cricket will come to fruition soon. "I'm doing this on weekends and I'm working corporate, so it's a bit tough, but hopefully, I can make a difference."