India Gymkhana Club Centenary
It’s a little corner of the Home Counties that evokes resonant memories of The Far Pavilions and, at first glance, you would never imagine there was any link between a Scottish cricket team and the Indian Gymkhana Club which celebrates its centenary this year.
But you would be wrong.
Back in 1985, as Freuchie prepared for their date with destiny at Lord’s in the National Village Cup, they completed their preparations for the tussle against Rowledge at the plush Gymkhana, which was founded in 1916 and, until 1996, played matches against all the visiting Indian men’s and women’s touring sides.
The organisation was originally established on the Great West Road in London by the Maharajah of Patiala, who had toured England as his country’s captain a decade earlier, and decided to bestow a gift of £1000 specifically designed to provide Asian students in the United Kingdom with a base for their cultural and sporting activities. (The burgeoning club also caters for football, hockey and other pursuits).
So far, so benevolent, you might suppose. But what on earth has this got anything to do with Freuchie?
Well, it’s not much of a mystery. In 1983, a group of Indian cricketers had visited Scotland and the Fifers’ captain, Dave Christie, quickly forged links with their guests.
As Christie recalled: “The Gymkhana lads couldn’t have been more supportive, we had really enjoyed their company up in Fife, and we were overwhelmed with the scale of the hospitality at their club.
“They laid on a huge buffet for us with all kinds of food, including garlic naan, layered parathas, tasty korma, delicious malai kebabs, aloo tikki and juicy paneer tikka. It was a banquet.
“A lot of their members, not just the cricketers, but folk from their football and hockey sections as well, trotted along and watched us practice and get ready for Lord’s and it was an unforgettable experience.
“We were obviously excited about the final, and a few of the lads were getting nervous, but the Indian Gymkhana Club provided a really relaxed environment in which we could stretch our legs, sharpen up our bowling and get rid of any tension which had been building up on the long journey down to London.
“The only problem was that we couldn’t find their ground and we were driving around in circles for a couple of hours – perhaps a wee bit extra research would have helped!
“But, once we had arrived, the mood lightened, and that Saturday session lasted for hours. The boys were desperate for a thorough work-out and the facilities at the Gymkhana were first class, which wasn’t surprising because they were used to hosting international touring sides [as well as staging an annual fixture against an MPs select].
“Honestly, the Indian lads couldn’t have done any more for us. Then we tucked into that brilliant spread. My only regret was that we couldn’t accept their invitation to go back on the Sunday evening after the final. But alas, there are only so many hours in any day!”
Over 30 years on, the IGC has formed strong links with Middlesex CCC and there is an effective bond between their Colts and the county.
Happy anniversary to them on reaching their own century!