Cricket stadium in Patna houses police station

Cricket stadium in Patna houses police station

In 1969, when Moinul Haq Stadium was constructed in Patna’s Rajendra Nagar area, it was considered to be second only to the majestic Eden Gardens in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Forty-eight years down the line, the stadium is in a dilapidated condition and the Nitish Kumar Government in Bihar has decided to demolish it and construct a modern world-class stadium.

The purpose is to make it suitable for hosting national and international-level matches, including now very popular Indian Premier League (IPL). After all, it was last in 1996 when the Moinul Haq Stadium hosted an international match between Zimbabwe and Kenya during the World Cup.

“Now a new international stadium will be built demolishing the present Moinul Haq  Stadium structure to host one-dayers and IPL matches. The department has approved its design and estimate and forwarded it to the Building Construction Department,” said Bihar Art, Culture and Youth Affairs Minister Sheo Chandra Ram.

In 1993, when the state capital hosted a match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, legendary cricketers Michael Holding of West Indies and former Indian Captain M A K Pataudi had appreciated the facilities at the stadium, which had a seating capacity of 25,000 people.  In the last international match in the stadium-- a World Cup match co-hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka--Paul Strang of Zimbabwe tore apart Kenya with a 5-wicket haul.

The same stadium is now gasping for breath. A cracked pitch, untrimmed grass and encroachments have become the hallmark of the stadium which is considered not even fit enough to host a state-level match. Today, a police station (Kadam Kuan) operates from the south-east portion of the stadium premises while the ground also houses Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalion 131 too.

“Nowhere in the country you will find an international stadium from where a police station is run, or for that matter, a CRPF camp is operated (on the western end of the campus). Other encroachments too provide the clear evidence of state government’s apathy and its seriousness about promoting sports in Bihar,” Amikar Dayal, former Captain of India Under-19, had earlier told DH.

Amikar, who now runs a cricket coaching centre on the stadium premises, rues how talented players left Bihar for good.“What else can one expect when the swimming pool side of the stadium is also hired for marriage purpose during the wedding season,” lamented a budding cricketer.

The fate of cricketers and the stadium took a turn for worse when Bihar was bifurcated in November 2000. The budding cricketers moved to Jharkhand and Bengal while in Bihar a number of cricket bodies emerged, apart from the Bihar Cricket Association (BCA). Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) and Association of Bihar Cricket (ABC) were also formed. And, each association claims to be the rightful promoter of cricket in Bihar.

While the BCA was headed by Lalu’s key aide Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the ABC was the brainchild of former Indian cricket team player Kirti Azad, who represents Bihar’s Darbhanga in the Lok Sabha.

As the different cricket associations in Bihar remained engaged in squabbling, neighbouring Jharkhand grew by leaps and bounds in terms of sport. In no time, a world class stadium – Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) International Cricket Stadium – was readied in Ranchi and inaugurated in January 2013.

 Home to former Indian Cricket team captain MS Dhoni, the JSCA International cricket stadium has been hosting Test matches, one-day tournaments, besides IPL. “The state-of-the-art venue in Ranchi is one of the best stadiums,” said former Bihar Ranji player Sanjay Tiwary.

“From hosting the first tournament (a one-day match between India and England) to the last Test match (between India and Australia in March 2017), the stadium in Ranchi has proved how proper planning and its implementation could take you miles ahead even as Bihar cricket associations remained engrossed with bickerings,” said the former Ranji player.

But Lady luck smiled on Bihar when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently accorded full membership to the BCA.

“The development has opened up new opportunities for the talented sportspersons. Instead of moving to other states like West Bengal, Jharkhand or Punjab, budding cricketers can now build their career here itself,” said Mrityunjay Tiwari, president of the Bihar Players’ Association.

Tiwari, who has been at the forefront of infusing a new lease of life into the moribund Moinul Haq Stadium, had earlier persuaded former sports and youth affairs minister Vinay Bihari to start renovation work of the  stadium.

 “A detailed project report was also prepared on how to renovate the Moinul Haq Stadium so that international matches could be held. Help was sought from Jharkhand Cricket Association too to find out the know-how and contacts (of firms/construction companies) so that a separate stadium of international standard could be constructed in Bihar. But the proposal gathered dust once Vinay Bihari was replaced,” a source informed DH.

Things, however, changed for the better when last month the Nitish regime decided that it would demolish the stadium and build a new one to make it suitable for hosting national and international matches. “It will be a world class stadium where matches from Ranji Trophy to IPL will be hosted,” said the Bihar Minister Sheo Chandra Ram.

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