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Harvesting talent

Location is not the only unique thing about this experiment. It’s the players who are at the heart of the mission, reports Subhash Rajta.

sports Updated: Aug 08, 2007 02:32 IST

You are told there is this amazing set-up and you decide to check out. Driving down a beaten road barely broad enough to accommodate the vehicle, meandering along a small rivulet, you come across the occasional buffalo, mud-plastered houses and villagers lazily going about their daily lives, and wonder if you are on the right path, for what you are looking for is a youthful sport centre throbbing with life.

But just then, it appears, in the midst of the countryside with few signs of development. Called Harvest Tennis Academy, it is the brainchild of Harvinder Singh Saran, an NRI based in Canada.

What we have here is a state-of-the-art tennis academy (for 6 to 16 age group), comparable with the best in the country. That it is nestled in a nondescript village, Jassowal, 31 km from Ludhiana — probably the first tennis academy located in a rural area — should not give you any wrong notions, for the slickness of the whole thing could come as a surprise.

Location is not the only unique thing about this experiment. It’s the players who are at the heart of the mission. Here, you see poor children with spirit and dedication. Every facility is available to them, and all free of cost.

Till last year, most of them hadn’t heard the word tennis, today,they talk about Aggasi, Nadal and Sharapova. I like Nadal… he beat Federer,” says little Honey. Spending six to eight hours at the academy may tire their tiny bodies, but they just don’t seem to have enough of it. “They are always desperate to rush to the academy,” says Balour Singh, father of one of the trainees Gundeep Kaur.

“Their curiosity and desire to learn is no less than those in the cities and have adapted very well to this sport,” says Kawaljeet Singh, the academy’s former chief coach.