Couch Talk

'I want to preserve the game's history'

Rohan Pate, who opened a cricket museum in Pune, talks about his collection, Tendulkar's bats, and chasing Lara

Subash Jayaraman: You own and run the Blades of Glory cricket museum in Pune. How did the idea come to you?
Rohan Pate: I had the idea of collecting when I met Sachin Tendulkar for discussing a role in my company as a brand ambassador. During our meeting, he gifted me a bat. That triggered an idea of starting a collection with used cricketing stuff of players. Since childhood, I was passionate about the game. I have played for Maharashtra as well.
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 I went on collecting.
SJ: Did you travel to various venues, try to be present at matches?
RP: Yes, I started in India, reaching all ex- and current players. During the 2011 World Cup, or even before that, I went collecting autographs. From the 2011 World Cup onwards I started going outside India - to Sri Lanka, Dubai, where Pakistan used to play. I went to England two or three times. I went to Australia in 2011 when India played over there. From there on, I have travelled across the world and got signatures and stuff from players.
SJ: Did you approach the BCCI or Maharashtra Cricket Association or Mumbai Cricket Association?
RP: No, I never approached anybody. 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. There are new things to get, from [Don] Bradman to Victor Trumper.
My grandfather named me Rohan after Rohan Kanhai. He was a great fan of cricket. I am trying to achieve his dreams.
SJ: You have established this museum in Pune instead of in one of the major cricketing cities in India. Why Pune?
RP: I was brought up in Pune, so I felt I will start here. As my stuff increases, I would love to make a mark all over India. I would love to invite all BCCI guys to 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.
SJ: How have you made your collection different from other cricket museums?
RP: My primary effort was to collect used stuff. I tried convincing them to give me stuff that was the most important part of their career. For example, I have the shirt Sachin wore in the 2011 World Cup 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 a cricket museum is not about only Bradman or Sachin. It is about the whole game. I thought I should do something different. From Zimbabwe to Bangladesh to Australia to India, everything should be there in a cricket museum. It talks about the history of the game.
Of course, the museums at Lord's and MCG are much bigger. Sir Donald Bradman's museum is really an honour. Unfortunately he is no more. If he were, I would have 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.
Generally, what I have seen is that the children who come to the museum get inspired by all this. They feel their shirt should be in the museum in ten to 15 years. That is my sole intention.
SJ: You have your own construction business in Pune, for which Sachin Tendulkar is the brand ambassador. How do you manage your business and your passion?
RP: I work all days. I work on Sundays also. When the cricket season comes, which is three to four months a year, I target a few teams. It might be the Ashes, the India-England series or the India-Australia series. Now that all the cricket guys know me, it is established. Initially, I had to wait for many hours to get autographs. I had to wait for six to seven 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 helping me.
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 [the memorabilia] from them. It is much easier and time-saving when these guys know I am doing it for cricket.
SJ: Have there been times when a player has said that they want money in return?
RP: I have not come across such players till now. Of course, players are worried about where their stuff is going. Before the museum was established they were worried about it, whether I am selling it or not, whether to give it to me or not. Every cricketer who has seen the museum has been helping. For example, if I don't know a player, I ask Sachin for help. I show 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.
SJ: Can you talk about your collection?
RP: The first section, as you enter, is 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.
There is the legends' room, with batsmen who have scored more than 10,000 runs in Test matches. There you see bats of Sachin, [Jacques] Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, [Kumar] Sangakkara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mahela [Jayawardene]. All their used bats are there. There are also Victor Trumper and Sir Donald Bradman's signed frames. There's Sir Viv Richards' bat and sweater. I have created a wall where all those with the most wickets feature. There is a Murali sweater from when he took 800 wickets, Sachin's bat, Mark Boucher's wicketkeeping gloves…
"A lot of children take pictures holding Sachin's bat. Some come and say, 'My shirt will be there next to Sachin's after 15 years'"
There is a World Cup section. You will see from 1975 to 2011 - signatures of all World Cup-winning squads, winning captains' bats, India's 1975 to 2011 World Cup signed teams. Winning teams' signatures from the World T20s. When you come inside, you see the players' jerseys - Mark Waugh to Jeff Thomson to Hashim Amla to Desmond Haynes to Gordon Greenidge.
There is also the bowlers' section. Malcolm Marshall, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Warne - all their shirts.
There is a special room dedicated 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 fourth innings in Chennai in 2008. That was a more emotional century for him because of the Mumbai blasts.
There are triple-centurions too. [Chris] Gayle himself came and kept the bat. [Virender] Sehwag came, Michael Clarke has given his bat. Mahela has come and kept his bat here. Brett Lee has given his torn shoes, which he wore against India.
People should come and enjoy the museum, because you cannot access players and meet them. At least you can see the bats they used. Gayle and others have said, "I can see Sachin batting next to me", after seeing those on display. Till now, around 5000-7000 school children have visited the museum. A lot of children take pictures holding Sachin's bat. Some come and say, "My shirt will be there next to Sachin's after 15 years."
When a parent comes with a young child, they look at Sir Viv Richards' shirt, and say, "He was the Gayle of our time."
I haven't focused on women's cricket yet. I would love to start it too.
SJ: Are there more things you would want to collect?
RP: I would love to have Bradman's bat. I am searching for it, trying vendors from Australia. Another thing I am missing is Brian Lara's bat. I haven't been able to convince him to give a bat. It would be interesting to get the bat with which he scored 400. Among the older players, I am looking for the great West Indies 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.
SJ: Are you planning to expand the museum?
RP: Yes, I am. I want to not only do a museum but also something for children who don't have stuff, for young cricketers who don't have access to facilities. I want to give them free facilities. I want to give something back to Indian cricket.