Couch Talk 138 (Play)
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. The guest today is Rohan Pate who owns and runs the Blades of Glory cricket museum in India. He talks about the beginning of his collection, converting it to a museum, how he came to acquire a lot of the cricket memorabilia, the various themes of his collections and where he wants to take it in the future. Welcome to the show, Rohan.
Rohan Pate (RP)-Thank you very much, Subash!
SJ– It is my pleasure having you on.
You own and run Blades of Glory cricket museum in Pune. How did the idea for a cricket museum get started for you?
RP– Actually, I had the idea of collecting when I met Sachin Tendulkar for discussing a role of his in my company as a brand ambassador. During our meeting, he gifted me his used bat. That triggered in me an idea of starting a cricketing collection with used cricketing stuff of the players. Secondly, since childhood, I was a great fan of cricket and passionate about the game. I have myself played for 16 years, and have played for Maharashtra as well. The passion towards the game is enormous and I wanted to do something for the game as well. That is where it started off.
SJ– So, you had a personal collection and then you turned it into a museum, is that how it worked?
RP– No, I started collecting and never thought of a museum. When I got Sachin’s bat, I felt “Oh! I have got HIS bat. The legend’s bat. I can have anything from anybody.” Then on it started, and I went on collecting. I felt that I have so much of this thing. As you know, in India, cricket is a religion for us, but we don’t have a temple of it. So, I felt that I should have a museum and the museum was created from that.
SJ– In terms of the initial collection after you got the bat from Sachin Tendulkar- did you travel to various venues, try to be present at the matches? How did that work out?
RP– Yes. what I used to do is that I used to plan my days. I started in India, got reaching to all Indian ex-players and current players. I started mapping. During the 2011 World Cup, or even before that, was a crucial period when I started collecting. All the guys were in India. I went on collecting autographs. From 2011 World Cup onwards I started going outside India – to Sri Lanka; to Dubai where Pakistan used to play, a lot of countries used to come and play Pakistan in Dubai. Those was the nearest. I went to England 2-3 times. i went to Australia in 2011 when India played over there. From there on, I have travelled across in the world and got signatures and various stuff form the players.
SJ-. As you said, there was no temple for the cricket memorabilia even though cricket is a religion. Did you approach any authority, like BCCI or Maharashtra Cricket Association or Mumbai Cricket Association, or anybody like that?
RP– No. I never approached anybody, because I wanted to let myself do something in my passion. Cricket was a passion for me. i wanted to do something for the game. It would be an honour to speak to them and with their help I can grow much larger. But I wanted to do something on my own. Every day I feel that I should have this and that. There are new things to get, from (Don) Bradman to Victor Trumper. Everyday some ideas come and I think over it and start doing such kind of things.
You had mentioned on your website that you are fulfilling a dream of your grandfather. You also have cricket in your family because your father was a club cricketer in Maharashtra as well as in England. What is their role and when you say you “fulfil the goal of your grandfather”, how did that happen?
RP– My grandfather… He kept my name Rohan because of Rohan Kanhai. He was a great fan of cricket. My grandfather is no more now, for the past 20 years. Since my young age, it was like whenever Sachin got out he would go out to bang his head. He always wanted me to do something for the game of cricket. I am trying to achieve his dreams. By getting Sachin’s bat first was my dream. After that, I still felt that something is missing when I created the museum. I still feel I haven’t achieved it all. I want to go for more and more. I still feel, seeing him in the heaven, because of his inspiration and support I have achieved so much. But I feel I haven’t done much and I should be doing much more in the coming years.
SJ– You have established this museum in Pune. It is one of the bigger cities in India. But in terms of major cricketing cities in India, it is not Mumbai, Delhi or even Bangalore or Chennai. Why did you set it up in Pune? Was there ever a thought of setting it up in Mumbai or moving this to Mumbai?
RP– Two things. i am brought up here in Pune. I felt that I will start here in Pune. Over the years, with the support of our government bodies and BCCI, I would love to establish in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi too. As my stuff increases, I would love to make a mark all over India and make this museum for our country as a pride. As you know, there are a lot of museums across the world, but in India there was nothing in terms of museum. I will be happy to open up at other places
SJ– Have you had any discussion with the BCCI saying that you can have Blades of Glory in 4-5 cities across India?
RP– I have not approached anybody till now. First thing is that I would love to invite all BCCI guys to come and have a look at the museum so they have an idea of what I have done. If they are willing, I am really happy to do something for the country. It is for my own passion. I have heard that they also want to start a museum. I am happy to do whatever they want me to do for them.
SJ– Let’s talk about your collection itself. As you mentioned, there are cricket museums across the world, more famously in London at Lord’s, at MCG in Melbourne. How have you made your collection different or distinguished from those other cricket museums?
RP– If you see, my primary effort was to collect the used stuff of cricket players. I tried convincing them to give me their cricket stuff that were the most important part of their cricket career. For example, I have 2011 World Cup Sachin shirt that he wore in the final. I have gone across the world for them.
In England, it is all about English cricket. In Australia, it is all about Bradman. But, cricket museum is not about only Bradman or Sachin. It is about cricket, the whole game. I thought I should do something different. From Zimbabwe to Bangladesh to Australia to India, everything should be there in the cricket museum. It talks about the history of the game. I felt that I should do something better in terms of doing something differently, getting things from all countries. I have a lot of stuff as you might have gone through and seen – from Australia, India, England, Sri Lanka… You name the country, I have something of the game from there which speaks about their country, their career, individual player. That is why I differentiate from others.
Of course, they are much bigger. Sir Donald Bradman’s museum is really an honour. He was the greatest player, and the museums have his stuff – which I am not having. Unfortunately he is no more. Of course, if he were, I would have gone over and convinced him to give something to my museum. The English museum, at Lord’s… I had gone to the bicentenary match there. Lord’s is Lord’s. The name, and the 200 years history that they have established. I am nobody in front of them. I am trying something differently and I will try to give something to India on this thing. I will give my best effort to the game of cricket. It is not only about the country. It is about preserving the history.
Generally, what I have seen is that the children who come to the museum get inspired by this. They fele that their shirt should be in the museum in 10-15 years. That is my whole and sole intention.
SJ– You said that you have travelled to different countries, met different cricketers and convince them to give you their used bat or sweaters or shirts or whatever. That means a whole lot of travel. You have your own construction business in Pune, for which Sachin Tendulkar is the brand ambassador. How do you find the time to do this? How do you manage both your business as well as your passion?
RP– Business is one part which also I love to do passionately. I work all days, I work on Sundays also. I speak to my dad when the cricket season comes, which is hardly 3-4 months a year when I target a few teams or a few cricketing teams that I follow. It might be the Ashes, the India-England series or the India-Australia series or India-Pakistan series or x y z. What I do is that now that all the cricket guys know me, it is established. Initially, it was a very difficult thing that I had to wait for many hours to get autographs. I had to wait for 6-7 days. Now it has become much easier. A lot of cricketers have visited the museum and know that I am doing it for the passion of the game. They are willingly giving them to me and helping me.
What I do is, at the start of the series, I meet them and convince them with what I have here. At the end of the series, I collect it from them. It has become much easier and time saving as well, when these guys know that I am doing for the game of cricket. There are boundaries too, as you would know. There are security reasons and many other reasons that you can’t get through to the player or meet them. I am trying.
SJ– Being in Pune, where you had an IPL franchise, the Pune Warriors, that would have made it easy for the active cricketers and coaches and ex-players to visit and add to your collection. Now that there is no franchise in Pune, does that make your job that much harder in terms of visibility for the museum as well as collecting of memorabilia?
RP– Yes. You are right, due to IPL many cricketers would come to Pune and I would convince them to visit the museum. It was easier. Most of them agreed and came to the museum after the IPL. They gave me their stuff after they got back. I got them through courier. They helped me. Post that, Pune hosted the India – England T20 match where all the England squad had arrived to the museum. The Australia ODI was there. The frequency has gone down, but whenever the match is there in Pune or Mumbai I speak to the players well in advance and try to convince them and try to bring them to Pune. Hopefully in the near future there might be chances that someone might take Pune team and play in Pune again. I’m hoping for the best. I will be going for the World Cup and a few other series. Let’s hope for the best and see what I can get.
SJ– Have there been times where you are trying to talk to the player and try to convince them to give away their stuff and a player said that they would want money in return, get paid if you want to have their bat or shoe for the museum, even though are not running the museum for profit?
RP– I have not come across such players till now. Of course, players are more insecure about their stuff. They are worried about where their stuff is going, they are worried that it has a value that I am not selling. They are really worried that I am not making money about it. But, as of now a lot of players have visited my museum. Before the museum was established they were worried about it, whether I am selling it or now, whether to give it to me or not. Every cricketer who has seen the museum has been helping. For example, Sachin is in the Indian team and I don’t know XYZ player, I ask him, “Can you please help me with him?” So, from there on I take it forward and they know that this guys has a museum. I show all of them the photos of the museum and the players who have visited the museum. They don’t have any issues to give their shirts or bats or shoes for the museum. Earlier, it was difficult.
SJ– Can you talk about your collections itself? You have various themes to your collection. You have a small bat, 100 of them, each signifying an international century of Sachin Tendulkar. Of course, you have ones for 600 wickets in Test cricket – (Anil) Kumble, Shane Warne and (Muttiah) Murali(tharan). Could you talk about the various collections that you have on display?
RP– Yes. To give you a background – there are various sections in the museum. The first section, as you enter, is you see how the bat was transformed – where the name Blades of Glory came from. It was like how the hockey stick was, to today’s bat. You might have seen across the globe too. There is then the legends’ room with batsmen who have scored more than 10000 runs in Test matches. There, you would see bats of Sachin, (Jacques) Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, (Kumar) Sangakkara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mahela (Jayawardene). All these guys, their used bat would be seen there. There are also Victor Trumper to Sir Donald Bradman’s signed frame. The most important thing, the biggest hitter in the era of the 1970s – Sir Viv Richard’s bat and sweater. It is a rare thing that I have in the museum. I have created a wall where all those with the highest wickets feature. There is a Murali sweater, that too the 800 wickets – that one sweater is there with me. Sachin’s used bat, who scored more than 15000 runs in Tests and 18000 runs in ODIs. Mark Boucher’s wicket keeping gloves – he has taken the most number of catches and stumpings. He is also one.
There are many different sections. There is a World Cup section. You will see from 1975 to 2011, all winning squad signed, World Cup winning captains’ bat, India’s 1975 to 2011 World Cup signed teams. When the T20 World Cup started, all winning teams’ signature. When you come inside, you see the players’ jerseys – Mark Waugh to Jeff Thomson to Hashim Amla to Desmond Haynes to Gordon Greenidge. Coming to the other parts – there is also the bowlers’ section. Malcolm Marshall, who was among the greatest bowler, signed his shirt. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Warne – all their shirts. There is a specially dedicated room to Sachin Tendulkar, where you see 100 bats which signify which century he has scored against whom, which country, which ground, how many runs, which year. he signed one bat for his best century – which was against England, batting in the 4th innings in Chennai. India was needing nearly 400 runs, where Sehwag gave a blistering start and Sachin scored the winning run, scoring 103. That time it was a more emotional century for him because there was a blast in Mumbai, the 26/11. All of India was under fear because of this thing. When he scored this century, even women came to him and said “Thank you for bringing life back to India.” which made him so proud, he said this century was for the whole country. It was not about his innings, it was winning against that team and bringing life back to India where all the guys and women were on their toes and happy, bringing a smile back to the country was a bigger moment.
There are triple centurions too, whose bats are there. (Chris) Gayle himself came and kept the bat, you can see that. (Virender) Sehwag came, Michael Clarke has given his bat. Mahela himself has come and kept the bat here. A lot of guys have come to keep their bat there. Brett Lee has given his torn shoes which he was wearing against India while bowling to M.S. Dhoni and torn it then. The battle between Dhoni and Brett Lee was going on, and at that moment it gave way. You will find n number of things from the 1970s and ‘60s to 2011, till Virat Kohli – I will have everything.
I wish all these guys come and see it. This museum should grow bigger and bigger. People should come and enjoy the museum because you cannot access players and meet them. At least they can see the bats that they used, the different bats, the balls, the stumps, shoes. They might get to see from just one foot away from them. Literally, players like Gayle and others have said “I can see Sachin batting next to me” after seeing those display, they feel these player around them. The players are giving that kind of comments. I have started a Prerana, where school children come and visit the museum. Till now around 5-7 thousand school children have come and visited the museum. A lot of children take a picture holding Sachin’s bat. I got feedback from parents that the kids wouldn’t wash their hands for three full days. it’s an amazing thing, the passion. Some come and say, “My shirt will be there next to Sachin’s after 15 years.”
I haven’t focused on women’s cricket yet; I would love to start it too. Women have come and seen it and asked, “Will you put my shirt up there too?” I said, “Of course. You play for India, you will be the one. It will be a pleasure for me.”. When a parent is coming with a young child, they look at Sir Viv Richards’, and say, “He was the Gayle of our time.” the parent is explaining to the children. It is amazing. What more do you want out of this?
SJ– Are there, in terms of the collection itself, more things that you would want to collect? Perhaps a missing signature here and there?
RP– I would love to have Bradman’s bat. I am searching for it, trying vendors from Australia. I know that it is not possible to get it from him now; I have to get it from somebody. Another thing that I am missing is Brian Lara’s bat. I have been trying, I have met him, asked from him, but haven’t been able to convince him to give a bat. It would be interesting to get his 400 bat in the museum. Among the older players, I am looking for the great WI players like Joel Garner and all those guys, the best bowlers and batsmen. What has happened is that over the years they have given away their stuff, they don’t have any left, somebody has just one or two stuff and want to keep it for their family. Unfortunately, I am not getting those things. I would love to reach to more people and get these guys to help me out and come and give something to the museum Let the people come and look at it instead of having it in their houses. Let the people enjoy it, let the world enjoy it.
SJ– Finally, Rohan, I am assuming you have a much larger collection that is not on display. Are you planning to expand the museum, in Pune itself?
RP– Yes, I am planning for an expansion. I am in talks for getting bigger land and establish a bigger museum, with facilities. I want to not only do a museum but also do something for children who don’t have stuff, for the younger cricketers who don’t have the facilities. I want to give them free facilities and make them grow. I want to give something back to Indian cricket – great batsmen, great bowlers. Wherever I can help. It will be a great contribution from my end to the country.
Thank you so much for your time. I wish you all the best in your museum and the growing collection.
RP– Thank you very much, Subash! Thank you very much!
Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman