SRINAGAR: With no caretakers, grounds men, proper fencing, water drainage, seating arrangement or watchmen, the cricket ground here at Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) in the heart of city has been virtually abandoned by its concerned authority, the Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council (JKSSC).
While the Government of India has introduced the Khelo India programme to revise sports culture at the grass-roots level, the state government, on the contrary, has failed to maintain J&K’s existing playing fields.
The TRC cricket ground lacks basic facilities and care and is populated after dusk by drunkards because, given the JKSSC’s neglect, there is no watchman or gatekeeper to deploy to keep watch.
The ground wore a feral, deserted look, while weeds could be seen on its outfield and, in other parts, sand patches. Water taps could also be seen on the ground, which has caused holes from the boundary line. The damage to the ground is visible from Moulana Azad (MA) Road in the summer capital.
Local cricket players, who say they take care of the TRC ground, told Kashmir Reader that the authorities have left it unattended for years after it was divided in the year 2012, with one side for footballers and the rest for cricketers.
Cricket aspirants said the other side of the ground is well-developed and properly maintained but the cricketing side is left undeveloped, neglected and without caretakers.
They also said that drunkards take over the ground by night as its fence and gate remain open round the clock. On one side of the ground is a long drainage connection that usually remains blocked, letting its contents out into the ground, takes days to clear afterwards.
The players also said that the authorities have allowed the installation of a transformer in a corner of the ground, posing a tremendous risk to cricketers.
Comparing the TRC cricket field to the well-maintained football ground on the other side, cricket enthusiasts asked why the Council is treating this ground as if it were not theirs. The players said they have approached the authorities several times to deploy caretakers, groundsmen and a gatekeeper here but have only returned empty handed.
The State Sports Council claims to have more than two dozen playing fields but has failed to maintain the one that is in the city centre, they said.
“The pitch is not fit for playing now, and infield and outfield are not in shape. Cricketing here is a risk till the ground is maintained properly. We serve as per our capacity, but the authorities must take this ground seriously. If they fail cricketers, it would lead this ground to perish,” said the president of Cricket Fraternity Dalgate, Imtiyaz Ahamd Munshi.
Crickter Ajmal Bhat said that they take up cleanliness drives every Sunday to clear the solid waste strewn in the field by the nightly intruders and that they have bought pipes for watering the ground with their own money because of the authority’s apathy.
Javid Ahmad, another cricketing aspirant, said that local tournaments are held in the ground but “playing here is not safe” with its ruined outfield and the bottles littered across it.
He said that the practice pitch has only iron rods standing around it as the Council has failed to provide it with a net. “The ball bounces back from these iron rods and without a net makes it more dangerous,” the cricketer said.
“The dressing room and pavilion remain locked up and local teams playing matches are forced to dress in the open ground. The changing facilities are opened only for officials, not cricketers,” he said.
When Kashmir Reader approached Secretary JKSSC Naseem Javid Choudhary, he said the Sports Council would verify the nuisance being made and would try to rectify matters.