Jamia Millia Islamia coach Sanjay Saini is upbeat about his team's chances in the upcoming Toyota University Cricket Championship starting February 23. Jamia, to be called the Northern Stars, will play the opening match against University of Madras – Southern Sharks – at Delhi’s Test venue, the Ferozshah Kotla.
"We have the players who can turn the match in our favour single-handedly. Mumbai may have been tipped as favourites for the tournament but I have a feeling that one of the North Zone team will lift the TUCC trophy," said Saini. Aligarh Muslim University will be the second team from North zone in the TUCC.
"The mood is very good in the camp. We are set to roar in the tournament and show everyone that there are more Virender Sehwags in the Jamia University," he said.
The coach also heaped praise on the NDTV initiative. "This is a great move by NDTV. The initiative will lead the university players to fame and it will not be surprising to see them get an entry into the next level," said Saini in an exclusive chat.
"I believe the BCCI will keep a close eye on the tournament and not one or two but it will give many a chance to play in the cash-rich Indian Premier League in days to come," he added.
Saini has been associated with the Jamia Millia Islamia since 2000 and has coached the University team to many titles.
"We have been among the best teams in the capital in last 15 years or so. We have won 12 trophies - Maharshi Dayanand six times, Pondicherry University Cup once, one Hero Honda ZMR Trophy and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Trophy for four times in-a-row from 2007 to 2010," informed the Jamia coach.
Saini also recalled his days when he used to play with the ex-Jamia student and India opener Virender Sehwag. "Viru is a good friend of mine but we keep a professional relationship. We used to play together in our college days," Saini recalled.
"We were in the same club then - the Collage Group. We both were middle-order batsmen and troubled others with our left-hand right-hand combination. We also often competed with each other on who will hit the longest six of the match," said Saini, a left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner.
Sehwag is a former student of Jamia Millia Islamia and in 2011 he was honoured with a brass statue and the ground pavilion was named after him. The University ground where the budding college cricketers train is known as Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi Sports Complex.
The coach also said the Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung has promoted sports a lot in the recent past.
"The University Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung has promoted sports a lot in the past three years. Now we even have sports quota in the professional courses which I think is a good move. In days to come one will see Jamia not only excelling in studies but also sports. The University also spends a handsome 35-40 lakhs in sports every year," he concluded.
Jamia Millia Islamia University won the Rohinton Baria All India University Championship in 1989, were runners-up in 2004 and finished third in 2012-13 season.