DHR 2430….That was the registration number of the auto-rickshaw that ferried the Subhania Club players to various cricket grounds of the Capital. The auto-rickshaw rarely served its purpose otherwise. For Radhey Shyam Sharma, it was more important the vehicle be used for his players than be loaned for commercial gains.
Commerce was not Radhey Shyam’s strong point. “I never made money from cricket. All my earnings went into Subhania Club.” Fifty three years ago, when Fazl-ur-Rehman Dehlvi met Radhey Shyam, in the railway yard where the latter worked, the ownership of Subhania Club, named after a madarasa in Sadar Bazaar, changed hands.
A journey ensued that has stood the test of time. Subhania Club is a force to reckon with in Delhi cricket with no less than 35 trophies from tournaments conducted under the aegis of the Delhi and District Cricket Association, 12 of them coming under the captaincy of Pawan Sharma. “We have never discredited the image of the game. Cricket is a team game and we have always encouraged camaraderie on the cricket field,” Radhey Shyam insists.
Subhania Club was run from a house in Mantola, Paharganj. After quitting his Railway job, Radhey Shyam ventured into sports equipment and sportswear business. Donations and money earned from the Shera Pandit Sports Shop were utilised to keep the club going. “My wife (Pramila) knew nothing of cricket but she has been an integral part of Subhania Club. She has cooked for the entire team all these years and never complained,” says Radhey Shyam, an unsung hero of Delhi cricket.
The 79-year-old Radhey Shyam remembers how Subhania Club held ‘nets’ in public parks. “I never charged a penny from boys who could not afford. I have an impressive list of kids who came to the club with nothing but went on to play Ranji Trophy and did well in life. Subhania Club taught you to compete and excel.” Among some famous names who wore Subhania colours is Ajay Maken, a prominent political figure in the Capital.
Subhania Club has an impressive array of players who contributed to enrich local cricket with their deeds. Names of Avash Pal, Arvind Bhasin, Prem Nath, Amrit Lal, Lalit Jain, D. K. Jain, Yad Ram made headlines regularly during the season. Stars like Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Surinder Amarnath turned out for Subhania Club at different times. “We did not really encourage non-club members but sometimes it helped if big players came and shared the dressing rooms with our modest youngsters,” explains Radhey Shyam.
Those were times, in the 60s and 70s, when prize money from cricket tournaments was meagre and yet there was fierce competition to keep your place in the team. It was this healthy competition that saw Subhania Club products Aslam Ali, Vijay Yadav, N. P. Singh, Durga Parshad, Shankar Saini, Mohan Chaturvedi, Ravi Sehgal and Ved Raj play first-class and club cricket with distinction. N.P. Singh was a terror with the bat and Durga Parshad the meanest with his left-arm spin. A Subhania Club representation certificate carried weight. “These certificates helped you get jobs and admission to colleges,” remembers Radhey Shyam.
The most memorable match for Subhania Club was taming the star-studded Malviya Club in the Power Cup final at the Modern School ground in 1987-88. Malviya, with a line up that included Kapil Dev, Ashok Malhotra, Yashpal Sharma, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Chetan Sharma, presented Subhania a target of 202 in 40 overs. Thanks to N.P. Singh, D.K. Jain, Pradeep Kochar and Kamal Talwar, the mission was accomplished with a wicket and seven balls to spare.
Subhania Club is a regular entry at most local tournaments. The auto-rickshaw has been shelved but the players unfailingly respond to the call from Radhey Shyam to reach far flung cricket venues for a match, sometimes three in a day. Subhania Club’s cricket journey continues.