TAMIL NADU

Not cricket this

CHENNAI JAN. 28. For several years now, the Nungambakkam Corporation ground adjoining the tennis stadium and the civic agency's zone VII office has been a favourite haunt for cricket enthusiasts. But the right of the public to use the facility has become a bone of contention in the recent times with some persons claiming the support of the local councillor allegedly demanding money from the players for using the ground.

Residents of Nungambakkam allege that the local Congress councillor, S. Narayanan (ward 107), had threatened to disrupt cricket coaching, which has been a regular feature in the ground for nearly two decades now. The coaching has been pursued on a non-profit basis and has reached out to aspirants from poorer sections. The ground itself has seen the rise of players of the likes of T. E. Srinivasan and Bharat Reddy.

But the residents allege that the councillor had adopted a hostile attitude. "Recently, Mr. Narayanan asked us to contribute Rs. 40,000 for using the ground. When we refused, he threatened to stop the cricket coaching and even said he would keep the premises under lock and key," said N. P. Manohar, who has been coaching young cricketers.

When contacted, Mr. Narayanan, who is also the chairman of the standing committee on education and playgrounds, denied the accusations.

"Being the chairman of the committee on playgrounds, I would only do my best to improve the facilities at the playground. The accusations are baseless and motivated," he added.

But there is a growing resentment among Nungambakkam residents about the role of the councillor in local affairs.

The Nungambakkam Exnora Innovators Club president, P. G. Ramnath, accused the councillor and his son of trying to intimidate the residents. "The area has been suffering from frequent power cuts. The TNEB recently planned to erect a transformer. The pillars were constructed to put up the facility but the councillor's son interfered and had the structure brought down," Mr. Ramnath said.

One of the Corporation officials, who interacts with Mr. Narayanan, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the transformer work had to be abandoned owing to interference from those claiming the councillor's backing.

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