No good ground for gentleman's game

A view of Nehru Maidan which witnessed two Ranji matches during 1957-58 and 1959-60. DH photo/ Chandrahas Kotekar

The coastal city Mangalore is diverse in many aspects. Mangalore is a blend of different people, different cultures and different languages. In sports also, we can see that diversity. Mangaloreans are known for their love towards sports, no matter what it is. In fact, it has a very rich history, as far as Mangalore is concerned. Like any other major cricket hubs in India, the British introduced the game here in 1920s.

The tradition and heritage cricket has and its aesthetics made the Mangaloreans to embrace cricket as soon as it was introduced here. The passion the people have towards cricket had a recent example, when they rejoiced during India’s victory in the world cup this year. Jyothi circle witnessed thousands gathering at midnight, after the Indian triumph in the world cricket’s premier championship, for the celebrations.

Mangalore has also produced many talented cricketers from the very first days.
Before the State reorganisation in 1956, as a part of Madras Presidency, the undivided South Canara district produced many number of players who played in Ranji trophy and other first class games for Madras presidency. The Madras Presidency team at that time featured at least 5-6 players from South Canara region. N N Suvarna, Patrick Futardo, G R Sundaram, Dayanand Kamath, Gopal Pai and B C Alva among others proved their talent with bat and ball. Budhi Kunderan from Mulki went on to represent India in test matches during 1960s.

Despite such a wonderful history, the development of cricket is still at infancy in the coastal city.

Only turf

The city with a rich history of cricket doesn’t have a proper cricket ground or even a turf wicket. The only turf available for playing is in Endpoint ground in Manipal. The idea of building an international level cricket stadium in Mangalore has more than 20 years old.
The proposals for the new stadium came in 1980s itself, but failed to find pace because of different reasons. Since then at different periods, different proposals came up for the cricket stadium.  

In 1996, the Dakshina Kannada Cricket Association (DKCA) submitted a proposal to the then Deputy Commissioner Bharath Lal Meena for a cricket stadium for DKCA.

The DC allotted 12 acres of land near Shakthi Nagar. But lack of funds for renovating it and the reluctance of district administration to hand over it in writing, resulted in futile exercise.

In the same year, another proposal was submitted to district administration for sanctioning land near the Pilikula Golf course. But the Social Forestry Scheme norms and the golf course authorities prevented from the dream coming true.

The idea got a fresh face when the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) decided to build an international cricket stadium in Mangalore. In 2000, the cricket administrators went to Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) seeking for the land near Thannir Bhavi. But the plan was rejected citing that the area comes under Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ).

According to a recent development, the DKCA had identified land near Kulai on NH-66 (earlier NH-17).

The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board  agreed to give 27 acres of land which was earlier meant for Nagarjuna Steel Plant and Jesco. The rate was decided at Rs.12,500 per cent.

The KSCA agreed the rate and gave green signal for the project. But then the KIADB turned the plate and hiked the price to Rs 50,000 per cent which forced KSCA to turn down the proposal.

After the new office-bearers took over the position in KSCA under the leadership of Anil Kumble, further development of stadium is moving in a slow pace.

Speaking to City Herald, KSCA Managing Committee Member Vijay Bharadwaj said, “We are still negotiating with the KIADB on price of land. The technical committee will meet soon and decide on it”.

The building up of cricket stadium will not only help the cricket infrastructure development, but the overall development of the city. “We have all the other facilities like airport, hotels etc. required for the stadium. The international stadium will give a boost to the sports, industries and tourism in the coastal region,” said Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) President G G Mohandas Prabhu.

 “We are very positive to the project and will provide all the help we can,” he added.
Currently cricket is actively played only in Nehru Maidan which is known as the ‘cradle of Mangalore cricket’.

DKCA Manager Kasturi Balakrishna Pai said that players have been playing cricket in Nehru Maidan for over a century.

 “Nehru Maidan witnessed two Ranji matches during 1957-58 season and 1959-60 season. Two newly formed states after the State Reoraganisation, Karnataka and Kerala played here,” he said. Nehru Maidan also witnessed several other great matches.
The cricket development in Mangalore is going through a tough period at this new age without a proper cricket stadium.

“The availability of ground is a serious problem for the development of cricket here,” said former convenor, Mangalore Zone of KSCA, Manohar Amin.

“The government should also take interest in this. When the NITK authorities are giving us ground for very less amount, NMPT is charging three times more for the ground at Panambur,” he rued. In such a situation, how is it possible to provide enough facility for the players? he questions. Association of Cricket Umpires (Mangalore Zone) President Dr Ranjan Rao says, “When we go to Bangalore and watch the players playing there, we could understand the difference between the players there and here. The introduction of a cricket stadium will surely boost the young minds in Mangalore,” he hopes.

Whatever may be the barrier for the international stadium to be a reality, ultimately the people who love sports are the losers.  These blockades are preventing the development of the city and nearby areas. When Bangalore is going for a second international stadium and other major places like Mysore etc are already having first class cricket grounds, the coastal city which has a heritage of playing with the bat and ball for nearly one century doesn’t have a turf pitch and it is nothing but an irony!

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