With the newly renovated Model Sports Complex in Palam, Services has got a base and Delhi another venue to host cricket matches

Services cricket is looking up. The team has made it to the knockout stage and the home ground, Model Sports Complex, Palam, has undergone a professional transformation. The transition period had extended long and Services has finally arrived on the big stage in style now.

The architect of the change is Air Commodore Mannepalli Baladitya, the current secretary of the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB). The accent is on giving Services the platform to produce champions and the first step is the renovation of the Palam ground, which will host England in a practice game on January 6.

A stone’s throw from the domestic airport, the Palam ground is one of the few open cricket venues where nature plays a role in creating competitive playing conditions. The serene surroundings add to the beauty of the venue with descending aircrafts a spectacle to savour. The spectre in the distance gradually assumes its giant form as it nears the runway. The game stops but the players and spectators don’t mind as they get to see the belly of the plane from such proximity. “Renovation of the Palam ground was a dream project,” confesses Air Cdr Baladitya. “We requested and persuaded the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) to help us with the finances. I am grateful to BCCI which sponsored the project. We now have a first-class venue that can host even visiting teams.”

Apart from the match against England, the Palam ground will be the venue for two practice matches when Australia comes in February. A five-member team from Australia appreciated the facilities and gave it a green signal as an ideal venue for its practice matches ahead of a much-awaited tour. Two feet excavation and the laying of proper soil with the help of laser technology has given the field a lush green look. The five pitches have been prepared with the right content of clay and grass. “They will be true pitches with good bounce,” assures Air Cdr Baladitya, who served as manager of the Indian cricket team on four assignments.

Former India captain Rahul Dravid had recommended Air Cdr Baladitya as “permanent” manager of the team for his “impeccable” administrative qualities and dashing opener Virender Sehwag rated him the “best manager” the team had ever had. With a background of quality administration to back him, Services could not have asked for a better man to bring in a touch of professionalism to its cricket. “We will give excellent playing conditions to the participants. We have one of the best infrastructures for cricket now. The dressing rooms suit the modern demands of the cricketers. We will decorate them with portraits of some of the finest cricketers from Services. The ground equipment is modern, with permanent structures for TV cameras and the sightscreens too. We will have a huge scoreboard when the Englishmen come for the match next month,” says Air Cdr Baladitya with pride.

The ambience of the player and spectator-friendly Palam ground, open, green and calm, would make the England and the Aussies feel at home.