When Indian restaurant supremo Avijit Banerjee was looking to expand his food empire worldwide, he chose Australia. In 1986 Avijit and his wife Malabika brought their business acumen from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) to Melbourne.
Little did they know that they would eventually be delivering a triple premiership winner and 200 hundred gamer to the Burras.
Arjit shouted his first “howzat” in 1989 by which time the Banerjee family were settled in Ashburton - their residence backing onto Warner Reserve and the Ashburton pool. School life for the little Arjit commenced at St Michaels Primary School. With his school mates he loved the ball sports and terrified his fellow students with the tennis ball flying everywhere off the school walls during class breaks. Before long, his school buddy Nick Corp tapped him on the shoulder and invited him to join BDCC.
Arjit remembers his first Thursday night training session at Hartwell SG, in particular, how diligent Tim Clubb was in dealing with parents and arranging the practice sessions. Tim recalls Arj as being earnest, keen, enthusiastic and eager to improve. The transition from school yard to competition games is not as simple as it appears. Arjit looked competent and confident in the nets and found himself in the top grade (A) of the Under 12’s. This was impressive for a 10 year-old debutant in his first game, especially when you realise that we fielded four U12 teams at that time. The end of season total figures of 31 runs @ 6.6 and 1 wicket @ 41.00 didn’t reflect his true talent.
(Rowan and Arj - Together from juniors till seniors)
Development and Success
His perseverance over the next three seasons – a second in the Under 12’s and two in the Under 14’s – showed constant improvement. He was really blossoming by the time that he reached Under 16 ranks. Another layer was added to this promising cricketer when he joined the freshly orientated senior fourth eleven for the 2004/05 season in C Grade. This grade was restricted to 65 overs in the afternoon, which was easier on the kids who also played in the morning, as well as the older bodies. The aim was to provide a transition step for junior players to progress to senior ranks. Led by the old stager Darren Veitch, himself a former BDCC junior, the Colts (fourth eleven) nurtured talented juniors like Greg Hesse, Nick Corp, Kyle Grace, Simon Yule and Arjit in attaining their first taste of senior cricket.
This really opened the door for Arj and he rejoiced in this challenging environment. Veitchy appreciated Arjit’s enthusiasm, as he always had ideas and wanted to be involved. He was given the opportunity to bat in different positions in the order, trying to find the opportune spot. When there was a chance to bowl his gentle inswingers Arj quickly grabbed the opportunity. So successful was the initiative that the Colts reached the Grand Final. Arj aggregated 202 runs over the season and was third in the batting. He also scored his first fifties, one in each of the seniors and juniors. Arj was chosen as Captain of the Under 16’s in 2005-06 and he shone in a leadership role. A couple of his team-mates Jake Evans and Rowan Crawford also went on the play First Eleven with our club. His junior team comfortably won the premiership to make Arj a premiership Captain. The celebratory pizza slices after the match were a good reward. He also represented the Eastern Cricket Association in the annual January Carnival and was awarded the Keith Mackay Cup for his batting consistency.
Back on their Feet
Just when it looked like Arjit’s future would be booming with success, things didn’t continue like he thought it would. He produced reasonable returns with the bat but lost the desire to bowl and stagnated in the lower grades. There was a decline in commitment and ambition. Study, career and other distractions took priority and his cricket plateaued.
The flame was re-ignited when standards were raised through the leadership of Bede Allsopp, Pat Sowersby and Mark Blundell. He grasped that not only the game, but the club, had been an important part of his life. The switch was accelerated when the club was down to only one side and the future was dimming. Opening the batting in the sole team he generated his best season total of 316 runs and was a component of the rejuvenation. The team saluted with the premiership which was a launching pad for success in the new era.
Resurgence of Burras
Arjit reached out to various mates like Naz, Roddy and Anton to bring in more resources and build team numbers. He is proud of being a broker to start the re-build of the club. He stepped up to take on the skipper’s role for the first eleven in 2017/18. The sparkle continued and over the following three seasons he made 1,133 runs to lead with the bat. He returned to the bowling crease and provided a further option with the ball, albeit now serving up darts. All the pieces came together and the Firsts won another flag in 2019-20.
This accomplishment made Arjit the first person in our club’s history to captain a premiership victory in both juniors and the First Eleven.
(2019-20 Premiership winning team under Arijit's captaincy)
Last season our top team moved up to A Grade and were firing on all cylinders by winning six on the trot. Another premiership was beckoning when two fatal blows hindered the progress. Pat Sowersby suffered a whack on his helmet to trigger the reoccurrence of severe concussion and then two games later Arjit ruptured his achilles tendon. The team stuttered along without these two leaders and champs to miss the finals.
This season Arj has returned and managed to reach the 200 game milestone just before Christmas. Arjit has been, and will continue to be, a shining light in our club’s story.
Personal Life – Arjit works in Sales and Marketing for Seek.com. He is married to the Mars Confectionary accounting empress Anusha and they have just brought their first house in Hawthorn East.
BDCC CAREER SUMMARY
Played Games Runs Wkts C/Stps
2000-2021 200 4,158 71 73
(1) Club records are missing a photograph of the 2005-06 Under 16 Premiership team. I also don’t have one of the 2016-17 Firsts Premiership Team.
Please let me know if anyone has a print.
(2) A Banerjee is mentioned in several teams this season, but only one is Arjit. The other three are Anshuman, Anupham and Aritra, none related to the original Arj.
31 December 2021