Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium, which has recently helped Chhattisgarh enter the list of cricket venues in the country, is a fine example of vision and hard work

Forty five days was all it took to spruce up the venue. In the middle of nowhere, the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium, a colourful cricket bowl nestling amidst greenery, is the proud possession of the Chhattisgarh Cricket Sangh (CCS), hardly acknowledged for its cricket.

The two Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in Raipur, held at the behest of Chief Minister Raman Singh, was an effort to showcase the positive environ of what has been largely known as a Naxal-infested State. Cricket became the tool to highlight the organising capacity of the newest-cricket venue in the country. A dedicated team of officials, guided by consultant Rajan Nair, a cricket official with three decades of administrative experience, worked on a priority basis to ensure the stadium was in place for the first ball to be played on April 28. “It was a prestigious project for us. The cost was set at Rs. 45 crore but we managed it in Rs. 23 crore,” said the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister at the inauguration ceremony.

For CCS Secetary Rajesh Dave, a first-class cricketer, the stadium was the culmination of a vision and hard work. “We can host big matches now. It means a lot for this region because people love cricket. We have waited years for this day,” he said with pride as the stands filled up and all the seats were taken.

One of the finest venues in India, the stadium is a beauty. With a capacity of 50,000, the venue provides an unhindered view of the game from any seat.

“There are no pillars,” informed Nair. With 50 days before the match, the place was a flat space literally. And then an army of workers descended, worked day and night, to come up with a splendid tribute to the youth of the region.

Since the stadium was located 25 kilometres outside Raipur, the spectators were ferried in buses; many did not mind walking miles. “We have the culture of sports and cricket attracts huge viewership. The IPL matches have come as a big boost to our hopes. The challenge will be to maintain the facilities but for the time being we would like to celebrate,” remarked the 54-year-old Dave.

Big cricket at Raipur is part of the Board’s process to take the game to small centres. Ranchi and Raipur have emerged possible additions to the circuit with facilities that can match the best.

For curator Shamim Mirza, it was an emotional moment. Mirza, 46, gave up teaching history in a Durg college to take to this vocation. He was among the 17 successful candidates at the Board’s exams for curators. “I have been attached to cricket since 1983 and I love making pitches. When I came here, we had just two rolling machines and the grass was knee high. Pitch making is a combination of art and science,” said Mirza, who claimed that no match played on a pitch made by him ever ended in a draw.

For R. P. Mandal, the one man force behind the stadium coming up in time, it was a dream. “It was a tough race but we had a great team. We have tried our best to give the cricket fans a sporting theatre they cane take pride in.”

There was little time left for the match to begin and Parul Mathur, the Superintendent of Police, was tense. Busy as always, she came across as a pleasant departure from the established image of a police personnel.

“We are here to facilitate and protect. It is a sporting event and we don’t want to intimidate spectators. The police will keep that in mind and you won’t see an overbearing presence of police inside the venue,” she assured.

A day after the successful staging of the first match, she sounded relieved. “It was a unique experience and we are glad the match went off well,” said the SP, supervising arrangements and once again reminding the staff of their duty to be spectator friendly.

A fast progressing city and State can celebrate the arrival of big cricket and the fans now await a local cricketer donning national colours. The first step in that direction has been taken.