with Neil Thakur
DOB: 30th November 1970
Club: Khar Gymkhana
Neil Thakur- the name needs no introduction. But still, for the newcomers of the sport, let’s introduce today Dr Neil Thakur, the man who is one of the pillars of Indian Pickleball. The Joint Secretary of AIPA- NGC and the Chairman of Maharashtra State Pickleball Association, Neil Thakur is one of the owners of the Super Smashers team that won the inaugural Pickleball Super League. But perhaps his name is equivalent to Khar Gymkhana Pickleball Department as this person has been instrumental in making Pickleball a dominant sport at this premier sporting club of Mumbai.
“The sport that started at KG with one person now has more than 100 members, including both men and women. Each day we try to bring in new members. I am overwhelmed to see the progress of Pickleball here.”
But how did it began at Khar Gymkhana. ‘Dr Neil’, as he is lovingly called by his mates, has an interesting anecdote to share with us.
“One day I was going back home after finishing my usual gym routine at KG, bored to death doing same routine for years. I accidentally ventured in our old Table Tennis hall which had some wooden bats and soft balls kept by our senior member, Mr Iyer. I came to know that the sport is called Pickleball and Iyer Sir had tried to promote this game in KG but did not have any taker. I got curious as for me anything else other than the same gym routine seemed to be encouraging.”
So Neil Thakur picked up the paddle and started hitting balls against the wall. After sometime he thought of getting a partner and so went out to search if there was anyone who wanted to take up something new.
“I found Vicky Chugh who also seemed bored like me. So I asked him if he was interested in trying a new sport and he agreed instantly. So there we were, two of us, hitting the ball without knowing the head or tail of the game but fully enjoying it. That day changed my life and till date I enjoy everyday playing Pickleball.”
Since last five years Khar Gymkhana has set an example about how a new game has to be promoted among people. Today there is a separate Pickleball department at KG with a proper executive committee. The club has dedicated indoor and outdoor courts that automatically attract people.
“Pickleball is fascinating. We work as a unit here and are now a closely knit family. We try to organise tournaments, workshops, coaching sessions etc.”
On the personal front, Pickleball keeps Neil Thakur not only physically active and fit but also keeps him mentally strong. He tries to participate in tournaments taking time off from his busy schedule. Apart from some domestic wins, Neil Thakur has been a proud owner of an international medal that he won in 2017 Bangkok Open.
“I have been actively playing Pickleball for the last few years. I don’t always get time to participate in all tournaments but I try to get involved as much as possible. My dream is to take Pickleball to new heights and make it a sport for the masses.”