Congress workers, cricket fans paid 'homage' to the MSCG
Following the 'death' of the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground (MSCG) in Rajkot amid the Independence Day celebrations, the city Congress on Tuesday evening staged besna and held a 'condolence meeting' on what were once the hallowed turfs of the historic venue.
Clad in white, a number of Congress workers and hordes of cricket enthusiasts assembled at the ground and paid 'homage' to the MSCG amid Vedic chants and devotional songs. Not only did they express their condolences with flowers and words to the garlanded image of the 'dead' MSCG, but also buried its 'corpse' near the boundary. It was symbolised by a stone wrapped in a piece of paper carrying a picture of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
The MSCG, which has hosted a dozen One-Day Internationals, is owned by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), where the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is in power. The ground, meant exclusively for cricket, is often used for other purposes. Consequently, both the pitch and outfield are exposed to serious danger and damage.
To be precise, in the past the RMC organised public functions like firecracker shows, kite flying festivals and even kavi sammelans at the MSCG, but they were nothing compared to what happened on and before this Independence Day.
Text: Haresh Pandya
Image: Congress workers and cricket fans at the 'condolence meeting' at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground
Photographs: Shailesh Vadoliya
Independence Day celebrations ruin wicket, outfield
Both the state and local BJP, teaming up with the RMC and district administration, made the worst possible use of the MSCG for Independence Day celebrations that were presided over by Modi.
In fact, a number of artistes, not to speak of a sizable number of horses, were engaged in different rehearsals at the MSCG almost a fortnight before the day's celebrations. And nobody seemed bothered about the wicket and outfield getting damaged every day.
The Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) authorities, who have apparently spent a lot on maintenance of the facilities at the MSCG, and their groundstaff were reduced to mute spectators.
Image: Rajkot Congress workers and cricket fans attend the besna of the Scindia cricket ground in Rajkot
Niranjan Shah did not say a word against authorities
SCA supremo Niranjan Shah, who usually behaves as if he owns the MSCG and tends to forget the basic manners expected of a man of his standing and reputation, especially when he organises ODIs there, was not in a position to say even a word, at least in public, against anybody.
Known for his business acumen, he could neither displease the RMC officials and district administration or Modi, who is not only the state chief minister but also president of the Gujarat Cricket Association.
Image: The Madhavrao Scindia cricket ground in a damaged state
A lush green outfield was turned to a concrete slab
The SCA's own cricket stadium is being built on the outskirts of Rajkot. But even when it is complete, the SCA will still need the MSCG to stage Ranji Trophy and other matches. Besides, not only is the MSCG in the heart of city, but it is leased to the SCA on only a token fee.
With the last week's heavy rain causing water-logging and slush on the MSCG, the local authorities, probably acting upon instructions from 'supreme authorities' from Gandhinagar, found a seemingly easy and unharmful solution.
They emptied truckloads of grit and gravel on the ground, laid them in every part, except the wicket, and overnight turned what was a lush green outfield to concrete. Though spared after repeated requests from the chief groundsman Rasik Makwana and his assistants, the wicket is nevertheless badly damaged because of the giant wheels of trucks rolling over it.
Image: A truck-load of gravel is emptied on the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground
'Narendra Modi is responsible for death of Rajkot ground'
"We've tried to send a strong message to Narendra Modi. This isn't the way to misuse and destroy Rajkot's only cricket ground. But he tends to take everything and everybody for granted in Gujarat. The Rajkot ground has actually died a tragic death because of Modi. I wonder if there will be any cricket here for months to come. And, to think the new cricket season is just round the corner," city Congress president Jashwantsinh Bhatti told rediff.com.
Madhukar Worah, an SCA bigwig, was very much inside the groundsman's room at the MSCG when the 'mourners' were expressing condolences and offering floral tributes to the 'departed soul' on Tuesday evening. But he, as local sports columnist Kashyap Dholakia put it, "did not have the guts" to step out and join the protesters.
Image: A lady offers flowers during the 'condolence meeting' at Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground
Cricketers unwilling to talk about this brewing controversy
Asked whether he was surprised or shocked by Shah's absence at the besna and the 'condolence meeting', Bhatti said: "Instead of feeling sorry for Shah, I sympathise with him. We expected that as a cricket person he would join us in the protest. But he was probably scared of Modi, fearing that he might be encountered if he utters a word against him or participates in any such demonstration."
Forget the SCA officials, even cricketers have shut their mouths and are not ready to say anything about the raging controversy which has become a talk of the town in this cricket-crazy city.
Image: A group of labourers go about their job at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground