Kingsgrove Sports Centre is barely 10 minutes away from the suburban Kingsgrove Station. This famous cricketing gear store owned by Harry Solomons, an Australian of Sri Lankan origin, has been a destination for players since it was opened 35 years ago.
Former Australia batsmen Mark and Steve Waugh worked here as salesmen for five years when their cricketing future was taking shape. Current skipper Michael Clarke too had handled the front desk and attended customers whenever support was required.The list is long. This store helped a World Cup winning Australian captain but behind its success and Solomons was a defunct Indian brand, Symonds.
Kingsgrove Sports Centre. Photo: Jasvinder Sidhu
“In the early 80s, I became the sole Australian representative of Symonds. AH Wheelers & Co, a big contractor of book stalls at Indian railway stations, owned that brand. I signed up Doug Walters, Allan Border and Mark Taylor for Symonds bats. There wasn’t big money in Australian cricket at that time. Symonds helped so many Australians financially. It was a great boost to their developing career,” Solomons told HT.
The Waugh brothers and fellow Australia players Greg Matthews, Mike Whitney, Michael Slater, Len Pascoe, Brad McNamara as well as Clarke are also in the list that was sponsored by Solomons.
However, most of them signed up with other bat manufacturers once they were established. Also, as Symonds was struggling as a brand in Australia, Solomons sold its dealership. The sports goods shop had also supported many West Indies cricketers like Gordon Greenidge. Among Indians, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sandip Patil, K Srikkanth and Kapil Dev used to use Symonds.
“The Waughs worked in the store when they were pursuing their education and cricket together. They loved to work here because they could also practise as I was the first in Sydney to start private nets,” said Solomons, who came to Australia from Sri Lanka 35 years ago with $200 in hand and set up the bedroom-size shop.
“One of my friends told me that Clarke was looking for parttime work and an academy to train. I called him and gave him the job and also opened my academy for him. He is still a regular visitor to the store,” Solomons said.