Malabar Mail: Celebrating the spirit of the region

Kannur pines for a cricket ground

Fort Ground is no longer accessible to sports, despite its rich history

The Fort Ground, or the Kota Maidan to the people of Kannur, is not far from the historic Fort St. Angelo, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. But it no longer exists in the nomenclature of the town’s streets and places. Fenced and guarded by Army men round-the-clock, the sprawling ground has now been reduced to a source of nostalgia for sports lovers here. But it was once open to local sports events.

Thalassery is incontrovertibly the cradle of cricket in Kerala. But neighbouring Kannur, the district headquarters, too has a cricket legacy. The Kota Maidan once witnessed several cricket matches between teams represented by the finest players of the time of Kerala and the Indian teams. It produced several State players who laid the foundation for today’s cricketing culture in the State. Cricket lovers here still recall the cricketing encounters and the Ranji Trophy matches played at the Kota Maidan.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who went on to become India’s captain, played here the match against Kerala led by local lad J.K. Mahendra, the first player from the State to represent the Indian schools cricket team that toured England.

The region’s association with cricket is believed to have begun two centuries ago. The game was introduced at Thalassery by Englishmen of the East India Company. The presence of a number of Englishmen at Thalassery and military personnel in Kannur popularised the sporting event, especially cricket, over a period of time. It took many decades before the local people themselves formed the first club: Tellicherry Town Cricket Club.

Subsequently, cricket clubs also were established at Kannur and kick-started a competitive rivalry between the clubs in two neighbouring towns. The earliest mention of the game between Thalassery and Kannur was found in a newspaper report in 1890.

The Fort ground, no doubt, played a vital role in developing sporting culture in the area. The Cannanore Cricket Club, Brothers Club, Fort Cricket Club, and the Manor Club were the popular local clubs here. Thalassery also had many great players, of course. But there was no State team without at least a player from Kannur.

C.K. Lakshmanan, Sandy Aaron, P.V. Surendran, P.V. Diwakaran, A. Sathyendran, J.K. Mahendra, N.M. Amarnath, O.K. Ramdas, C.M. Ashok Sekhar, C.K. Ravi, C.K. Gopinath, P.V. Divakaran, and Ivan D’Cruz played for the State team. They were all from the clubs in Kannur town. According to old-timers, the Kota Maidan used to be open for practice every day. The clubs even brought well-known Indian and foreign coaches to train players. Local people who encouraged sports too kept the game going for long.

There could be many factors that led to the decline in cricketing culture in Kannur. The loss of the Kota Maidan to local players could well be one. The vast stretches of grounds that included the erstwhile Kota Maidan are part of the estate of the Army unit stationed here. Fenced and protected, they have long been out of bounds to local cricket and football players. With the shrinking of open grounds, many clubs have vanished, and some are fighting for survival.

Nostalgia apart, the Kota Maidan no longer serves to promote cricket or any other game today. The much longed-for rejuvenation of cricket in Kannur requires alternative facilities that can put the game back on a pedestal and revive the game’s glorious past here.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 5:57:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/kannur-pines-for-a-cricket-ground/article30846133.ece

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