Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association,but his association with the cricket pitches in the state has lately been of a different kind.
In the past one-and-a-half years,three cricket grounds,including an ODI venue,have been dug up and left damaged for functions to be attended by him. The latest is Mahendrasinhji Cricket Ground in Morbi,where the pitch has been dug up and coated with coal tar to lay a helipad for the CM to land on Wednesday. He is addressing a convention of sarpanchs in this industrial town.
Ever since work on the helipad began four days ago,players have been barred from the ground,which belongs to L E Engineering College (government).
Incidentally,there is a permanent helipad on Circuit House premises in Morbi. However,according to mamlatdar Naran Muchar,this is under renovation. Defending the new helipad,he added: This is also a government ground and it is better levelled now.
Road and Building Department official T S Jalaria insisted not much harm had been done. Only a part of the pitch has been covered,he said. The coating of tar will be removed.
Former Rajkot Ranji player Nilesh Mankad scoffs at this. Once dug up,the ground becomes harder. Cricket requires softer ground, he said. It takes at least a monsoon to bring it back into shape, agrees Piyush Khakhar,an umpire in the latest season of IPL.
Earlier,in January,Bhavnagar University cricket ground had been dug up for a Republic Day function,while in 2010,Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Stadium in Rajkot was taken over for an Independence Day function.
There are so many open grounds available. But for us,there is only one ground, says an anguished player.