New venue to welcome Ranji stars

A new venue and a refreshing ambience will welcome Karnataka and Haryana when they lock horns in their Group ‘B’ Ranji Trophy match here from Saturday.

A panoramic view of the Rajnagar Stadium in Hubli which will host the Ranji Trophy match between  Karnataka and Haryana beginning on Saturday. DH PHOTO

Rajnagar Stadium, that has come up on a 15-acre plot in the outskirts of the city, bears the look of an international cricket field but this was Hubli’s helipad for a long time. The Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation decided to use the plot as a cemetery but the Karnataka State Cricket Association showed interest in the then barren piece of land and bagged the plot on lease from the HDMC in 2005.

“We started work in 2005 and it was very hard work because this area was the extension of a hill,” said a KSCA official on Wednesday. “It took us nearly a year to excavate all the rocks and we had to bring in red soil because what was there was like white chalk. In 2007, we completed all the basic work but for some reason we had to stop work on it for sometime.”

“When the new KSCA committee was chosen we returned to work on the ground and we completed it a few months ago,” he added.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India officials inspected the venue recently and gave it their thumbs-up, and as a result, the facility is now ready for its first big test. Several league matches have been conducted here but nothing like a four-day Ranji Trophy match. That would be a cause for concern as the wicket on offer has been relaid recently and could hold a few surprises.

Hubli last played host to a Ranji Trophy match back in 1992 when Karnataka, comprising debutant Sunil Joshi, took on Hyderabad at the Nehru stadium. The match was called off after two days of play due to a curfew as result of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6.

“So far five Ranji matches have been played in Hubli. A couple of matches were played in the early 70s and then in the 80s — all on matted wickets. The first match on turf in Hubli was the Karnataka-Hyderabad match at the Nehru stadium,” said the official.

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