Retired hurt: Historic cricket ground in a state of neglect

Many international stars had played here

Retired hurt: Historic cricket ground in a state of neglect

 
The 150-year-old Central College Cricket Ground, the birth place of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and once the stomping ground for Cricket legends  like Garfield Sobers, Neil Harvey, Erapalli Prasanna and M A K Pataudi, is now an obsolete relic. The home of Karnataka cricket till 1972, is today masked by weeds, a dilapidated stand and a patchy multi-purpose playground. A few black and white photographs in the foyer offer a vague reminder of the glorious past.

While the ground itself offers seven acres of breathing space in the bustling business district of Gandhinagar, the complex includes an equally obsolete gymnasium, tennis courts and a ‘basket-less’ basketball court spread over 12 acres. Now, the sole property of Bangalore University, the ground is under zero maintenance due to fund crunch.

The university’s only playground in the City has been allocated Rs 1.5 lakh for maintenance from the varsity’s budget for 2009-10, but not a single rupee has been released yet. The same amount was allocated in 2008-09 too, but eventually only around Rs 20,000 was released.

The university’s ambitious plans of converting the ground into a Rs 43-crore sports complex with a modern gymnasium, swimming pool, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts too lies in cold storage. The Director of the Physical Education Department at Bangalore University, Dr R Munireddy laments the lack of infrastructure and support for the ground. “I personally prepared the proposal for the indoor stadium, which has been gathering dust for close to two years,” he says.

Munireddy adds that compared to the infrastructure and support extended to sports at other varsities, the Bangalore University’s support is a zero. Pointing to a bunch of young sportswomen taking a nap on the steps, he says: “It is shameful that we do not even have rest rooms and adequate toilets for the girls who come to practice here.”

Former Karnataka Ranji cricketer, A V Jagannath, who was the caretaker of the ground for ten years, says that the Central College Ground in its heyday was one of the finest grounds. “The KSCA was born at that tiny building, which today houses the Old Students Association of Bangalore University. Indian greats like Pataudi, Prasanna, Chandrashekar have graced the ground but today it suffers from neglect,” Jagannath says. He reminisces about the days when the ground used to draw about 15,000 people for Ranji Trophy games.

The ground played host to 52 first class matches beginning in 1941 up until the construction of the famed M A Chinnaswamy stadium in 1972. Noted cricket statistician Gopalkrishna Ramaswamy, whose first scoring game was the match between South Zone and Australia at the ground reels of a list of games that the ground played host to. “The first overseas team to play there was the Pakistan team in 1952 featuring Hanif Mohammad against Indian Universities. And the ground witnessed great teams led by Sobers, Lawry and Ted Dexter,” he says. At one point, the ground boasted five turf wickets but now mainly hosts Intra-University games on matting wickets.

Meanwhile, Munireddy expresses concern that an initial fund of Rs 25 lakh sanctioned for the foundation of the stadium will lapse by March 30, 2010. “We keep hearing positive words from KSCA, the varsity administrators and everybody else but nothing ever materialises because there are no sponsors for this historic site,” Munireddy laments.

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