UK based Dr Samir Pathak realising his vision of youth empowerment through his charity Cricket Beyond Boundaries (CBB). Dr Pathak shares his vision in an exclusive interview with Asian Lite columnist Riccha Grrover
Cricket Beyond Boundaries (CBB) was established in 2011 as a global sports initiative that uses cricket as a vehicle to transform lives. Cricket is the world’s second most popular game with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide.
Dr. Samir Pathak is a gastrointestinal surgeon with a keen interest in cricket and has represented the England Universities team in 2004 and is a current playing member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). He feels strongly about the impact that education and sport can have on children coming from underprivileged backgrounds and he goes all out in realising this vision under the banner of CBB.
Please share with us about your career background, interest in cricket and when was CBB set up ?
I am a liver and pancreatic surgeon with a strong interest in academia, working as a lecturer in Bristol. I went to medical school in Liverpool and graduated in 2006. I subsequently trained in Bristol, the Southwest and Leeds. I currently work at both Bristol University and the Bristol Royal Infirmary.
In terms of cricket, I was a wicket-keeper batsman and played county-age groups all the way through my early years. I also trained at the Yorkshire centre of excellence in Headingley for a year in 1999. I then went on to University and captained Liverpool University in 2004 and also had the honour of representing England Universities the same year.
My interest in Cricket probably stemmed from my Father, Dr Ashok Pathak MBE who played in the RanjiTrophy for Bihar in the early 1970’s when he was at Patna Medical College. He too was a wicket-keeper batsman.
As a youngster at school level, I had seen various exchange schemes with languages and wondered about the possibility of doing sporting exchanges. Between myself and my Father we had good connections in the cricketing world in both India and England and hence felt it would be a good idea to utilise these to do something of benefit for underprivileged cricketers. I then discussed these ideas with an old school mate of mine, Mr John Wilson who was a teacher at Cheadle Hulme School and he was instrumental in the idea becoming a reality in 2011.
Why did you feel the commitment to set up the not for profit – CBB? What is its main ethos?
The commitment stemmed from wanting to do something for people less fortunate than myself but with skill set and potential that could benefit from support and from wanting to positively utilise our network of friends in various fields of teaching and cricket. The main ethos of Cricket Beyond Boundaries is “using cricket to transform lives.”
Tell us about the events you have hosted under its banner till now, any upcoming ones and your future vision with what you would like to achieve with all the fundraising activities you do?
Our most recent fundraiser was on July 14th at the Lalit Hotel in London where we had 3 different generations of batting superstars from India – Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Prithvi Shaw. We have previously done fundraisers in 2013,2014 and 2015. In 2013 we hosted the Lashings World XI in Hull along with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. In 2014, we held a function at the House of Lords with Sachin Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar (patron of CBB) and Farokh Engineer as our guests. Lord Bhikhu Parekh, one of our other patrons hosted the event.
We subsequently held another fundraiser in 2015 at the Cinnamon Kitchen in London where Gordon Greenidge, Monty Panesar and Dilip Vengsarkar were the chief guests.
With the World Cup being held in England next year we will host another dinner in 2019.
The aim of the fundraisers is to be able to expand the work we do and fund young cricketers from all cricket playing nations. We are already discussing plans with Gordon Greenidge about how to facilitate bringing a young West Indian cricketer over to England.
CBB has facilitated over 20 young Indian cricketers to visit the UK and attend leading schools/clubs to facilitate their education as well as further developing their cricketing nous. Most of these boys have been from very under privileged backgrounds – how was the experience for them to be a part of this exchange programme and how has it impacted them ?
For some of the boys, the effect has been fairly obvious but for others it has had a more subtle but perhaps lasting effect. Prithvi’s success is of course down to his own hard work and talent but there can also be no doubt that he benefitted from coming to the UK at the age of 12. He was taken out of his comfort zone and had to adapt to a different culture, way of life and food as well as different cricketing conditions. When he first arrived his English language proficiency was limited, when he returned he was able to address a press conference with confidence as a 12-year-old! These experiences would have shaped his leadership qualities as well and am sure played a role in him becoming the India U-19 World Cup Captain.
The cricketers from the Children Home in Chemburalso benefit immensely but in a different manner. When we first brought 15-year-old Rupesh Borade to the UK in 2015 we were quite apprehensive about how he would fit in and adjust and how the youngsters at the school would react. He had several bad experiences at his young age. He was sent to the Childrens home by his aunt and began playing cricket. There he was coached by a friend of ours, former Mumbai opening batsman Sahil Kukreja. It was Sahil who suggested a short stint in the UK for Rupesh.
Our fears were unfounded! Rupesh fitted in superbly well and was very well looked after by all his class mates.
Cricket proved to be a true level playing field and any feasible language barriers were quickly broken down. He relayed his stories to other classmates back at the Childrens Home and since then a further 4 boys have been to Durham School. Furthermore, Durham School have also been out to Mumbai and trained with the boys in the Children’s Home. They have also donated money so that a water fountain could be built so all children have access to clean water. Toilet facilities are also currently being built due to donations made by the school. Hence one can see that a real bond between the two communities has been fostered.
Rupesh has returned for the fourth year in a row and is now playing as an Overseas amateur for South Shields CC up in the North East of the UK. He is now a confident young man- a far cry from the apprehensive 15-year-old who landed here in 2015. Rupesh is living proof of how cricket can be positively used to transform lives
Do you partner with any other charities in India or Uk ?
Our main partner organisations include Durham School and Barnard Castle school in the UK. In India we support boys from the Childrens Home in Chembur(Mumbai), Dilip Vengsarkar’s academies in Pune and Mumbai and R Ashwin’s academy in Chennai.
Other schools in the UK to have hosted boys include Cheadle Hulme School and Merchant Taylors in London.
Big names in the field of cricket like Rahul Dravid, R Ashwin, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sunil Gavaskar are supporters of your charity- how did you up the game for your not for profit in a way to get such big names as your supporters so early on in the field ?
Before I answer that I that need to mention all the people who helped- Nilesh, Saba, Sahil in India. Lord Parekh and all schools in UK. Many of the cricketers are friends of ours who have supported the cause. When you have a vision that you believe in, a vision for empowering youth, the future… and especially in the field of cricket- all the big players generously support that all out endeavour has been my experience and CBB has been fortunate to get this support.
During the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first official visit to India, they attended a cricket match at the famous Oval Maidan in Mumbai and few CBB cricketers got to meet the Royal couple – how was it for the boys and how do you think that was important/landmark for CBB and you personally?
It was a huge honour for the young cricketers to meet the Duke and Duchess. Prithvi Shaw, Rupesh boradeand Prajwal Pansare were the three youngsters who met the royal couple. Obviously, it was a huge privilege for me as well. The Duke and Duchess were fascinated to hear about the boys time in England as well as their thoughts on British cuisine compared to Indian food!
For CBB, it was a huge moment to be invited by the British High Commission in India because it meant that although our work was low volume, high profile individuals were beginning to see the value in our work.
What’s your future vision for CBB?
Expand the scope of our work and thereby an increase in the number of boys we support. Expand our work reach beyond India and England to all cricket playing countries. Support female cricketers as well as the boys that we already support so we can have a more gender balanced impact. Eventually to be able to support differently- abled cricketers too.