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Every one in 5 individuals in India dream of representing the Indian National Cricket Team. But hardly a few manage to realise their dreams. Dinesh Bhunu, who is currently the head coach of Cricfit Academy, is one such name.

Dinesh has played cricket in college and also represented a couple of corporate teams for Reliance Industrial Time Shield for the last 16 years along with playing for Maharashtra in the U-19 age-group cricket. He has also played in an International tournament in Bangkok in 1997 and Advance Premier League in Tanzania in 2014. However, he soon developed a keen interest in coaching and shifted his focus to train young talents for the future since 2001.

Having played the sport since his childhood, Dinesh Bhunu has a thorough understanding of all the technicalities of the game. A great eye for talent, Dinesh is a hardworking individual. He gets behind his students and helps them achieve their potential.

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To take his dream further, Dinesh Bhunu did ICC Level one coaching from the UAE. He has also done Mumbai ‘O’ Level coaching in 2016. Apart from coaching in the Cricfit Academy located in Lokhandwala, Dinesh runs his own academy – Versova Sports Academy in Versova.

To encourage his young cricketers and developed the fighting instincts, Dinesh Bhunu has started an Indian Premier League-kind of a tournament among the students of his academy. He scouts talent and makes them play an IPL-style tournament to boost their motivation for the larger picture in a smaller way. Dinesh also makes IPL-style jersey and give prizes to boost their confidence.

An excerpt from the interview:

Q1. How did the idea/concept come to your mind to start a mini kind of an IPL for kids?

A1. When I lost my job in 2012, I and my wife decided that one of us has to work for our house to run. As a result, was decided that if one has a government or sales job then the other person can start some business or job related to creativity. Luckily, my wife got a government job. After which I decided to follow my passion, my first love which is cricket.

For which I started my own academy by the name of Versova Sports Academy in Versova where I started cricket coaching. I knew for a fact that in my area the kids can’t afford the costly cricket equipment which is why I supply them with all the equipment on my own. The kids only have to bring their own water bottle and cap. I only charge 750 rupees as a nominal fee from the kids.

(Credit: Dinesh Bhunu)

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I have decided to give every student of mine the best chance. That’s how the concept of IPL came in my mind and I started working.

Q2. What is the motto behind having such kind of tournament every year?

A2. There are a lot of talented kids in my village. Be it any sport, their stamina is unbelievable. I wanted to enhance the talent in them which is why I thought about this concept. Also, there is no club in my area that would promote their talent.

The competitive spirit of IPL is something I’ve always been fond of which is why I decided that this platform will help them explore the talent inside them in a way better way.

(Credit: Dinesh Bhunu)

Q3. How has the response been among parents & kids ever since you started IPL like tournament?

A3. I got a positive response from the parents. Moreover, the kids enjoy this very much and ask me to conduct a tournament like this at least twice a year. When the parents come to watch their kids play, they get surprised to see the growth of their child and then encourage me even more.

Not just the parents but the people who come to the ground for a jog also end up watching their match. Last year in 2019, I had live-streamed the final match on YouTube, which was watched enjoyed by both parents and their relatives. In 2016, I had kept a night tournament which was supported by both kids and their parents.

Q4. Do you wish you had something like this when you were a kid? What are the prizes you give to players?

A4. During my childhood days, a platform like this wasn’t available to me. Also, my financial condition at home wasn’t great. If I had the financial strength back then, then today I would’ve been a good cricketer.

The thing about my tournament is that kids between 8 to 16 play in one team. First 10 overs are played by kids from the age of 8 to 12 and then the next overs are played by 12 and above. When small kids are batting that time only the small kids can bowl.

(Credit: Dinesh Bhunu)

The following awards are presented during the tournament:

  • Man of the match: Trophy
  • Man of the series: cycle / fully loaded kit bag
  • Man of the match (final): trophy
  • Best Bowler tournament: Trophy
  • Best Fielder Tournament: Trophy
  • Winning team players: Wrist Watches + Trophy (memento) + School Bag
  • Winning team: trophy of Versova Premier League T20.

I’m giving away all these awards without any sponsor for which my close relatives help me.

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Q5. Do you plan to make it bigger with more team in the coming years?

A5. Yes, I want to do something really big. But I need proper guidance to do that which I’m getting slower. Recently I successfully attempted/passed the exam for ICC Level 1 coach. My wish is that kids from Versova Sports Academy go forward to play cricket at the next level.