Gokaraju Gangaraju is a man on a mission. He also has a vision and no wonder a marvel of an edifice has come up at Moolapadu (25 kilometres from Vijayawada), offering a bird’s eye view of two grounds at the same time.
Moolapadu is one of the 20 grounds of the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) already in operation. Ten more are on the anvil. The otherwise nondescript Moolapadu has now become a jewel in ACA’s crown. All these grounds are picturesque and have their own unique features.
According to MSK Prasad, who, until recently, was director of operations of the ACA before becoming national selector, has a story to tell of how Gangaraju, a BJP MP from Narsapur and secretary of the ACA, envisioned the Moolapadu ground.
“It was conceptualised when we visited this place two years ago. While we were talking, he suddenly disappeared. By the time we realised, he was on the top of a hill. He is a fitness fanatic by the way, who goes for long walks and swims across the river Krishna. He came back with an idea. Why not have two grounds with the pavilion between the two so that selectors can watch both matches simultaneously! We were stunned. Today, his dream has come true. He wants to develop this venue as a tourist spot also, with trekking camps. We want to build good rooms on the second floor. It can serve as a source of revenue for the ACA and promote tourism at the same time,” said Prasad.
The Gangaraju-Prasad alliance, with other dedicated officials, has turned the ACA into a role model for other affiliates of the BCCI. They have a surplus of `50 crore in bank balance. Treasurer MA Rahim insists total transparency is maintained. “We present our accounts every quarter. We have tight fiscal measures and all payments are made through cheques or on-line. We have internal audit also. Gangaraju makes sure we maintain discipline in financial matters,” said Rahim, a former joint commissioner of Income Tax.
An industrialist, Gangaraju explains that out of the `28 crore annual grant from BCCI, 50 per cent will be spent on infrastructure till 2017, 25 per cent on four academies, 15 percent on salary for staff and 70 coaches and 10 per cent as corpus funds. “We expect all the infrastructure to be ready by 2017, including a modern stadium at Mangalagiri with a capacity of 30,000,” said Gangaraju.
Prasad added there is this one-of-its-kind eco-friendly indoor academy at Mangalagiri, where players can hone their skills in natural light. “We won’t need electricity during the day. We will have natural light and with sliding windows at the top, the wind can help swing bowlers. It has seven pitches, including two for spin, cameras and a modern gymnasium,” said Prasad.
The former India wicketkeeper added they would like the ACA to be self-sufficient. “In future, in case we don’t get funds on a consistent basis, we have to generate our own revenue and these academies would serve as money-earners. We can invite teams from England, Australia, New Zealand on exchange programmes.”
The four modern academies (at Vizianagaram, Mangalagiri, Kadapa and Guntur) have lodging, boarding and education facilities. “The Guntur academy is exclusively for women, which is one of its kind in the country. Apart from cricketing activities, players pursue studies and we have a tie-up with colleges and schools. These cricketers get `4,000 as monthly stipend. Most of the trainees are from poor backgrounds and they send a part of the stipend to their families,” said Prasad.
The Guntur-born Prasad said in the past, cricketers from Andhra suffered financially and in terms of facilities. “I went to Hyderabad in pursuit of my dream. I underwent a lot of hardship, including eating dry chapatis and staying in dingy rooms. So when I was offered this job, I took it up as a challenge. Today, we have made the ACA a role model for other associations.”
Ch Arun Kumar, joint secretary, who looks after day-to-day affairs, pointed out the goal is to make ACA the most efficiently-run organisation in the country. “Thanks to Gangaraju, sportspersons from other disciplines get financial aid from the ACA. Grandmaster MR Lalith Babu and archer V Jyothi Surekha (who recently became the first Indian woman to win gold in the compound event at the Asian Championship) are among the beneficiaries.”
Prasad, the only Test cricketer from Andhra (Venugopal Rao has played ODIs), said Gangaraju’s dream is to see Andhra winning Ranji Trophy and at least three players in the national team. “Last season, we qualified in all age groups and the Ranji team has made it among elite teams. This season, our U-19 women won the national championship. We have taken a small step with a clear vision. There is no compromise in selection. Merit is the only criteria.”
Rightfully, Gangaraju and his dedicated gang are indeed the ACA’s pride and others’ envy!
Last season, he became the first wicketkeeper to smash a triple century in Ranji Trophy and is marked as a future star. An opening batsman, he already has two centuries this season and the 22-year-old could soon be plying his trade in A-team tournaments if he maintains consistency.
Last Ranji season, the left-arm seamer was one of the highlights in Andhra’s march to the quarterfinals. A new-ball bowler, he picked up 37 wickets and despite playing a handful of matches this season, he is the spearhead of Andhra’s bowling department.
He is the captain of the Indian junior team which will take part in the U-19 WC in February. He has already played 13 first-class matches and has got plenty of praise from Mohd Kaif. A middle-order batsman, he has an aggressive approach with ability to bat long.
Andhra’s Report Card
Ranji Trophy: Qualified for quarterfinals from Group C.
Siva Kumar was the second highest wicket-taker with 42 scalps.
Col CK Nayudu U-23: Retained their place among Elite teams.
U-19: One-day South Zone champions for the last two years.
U-16: South Zone runners-up.
U-14: South Zone runners-up.
U-19: This year, South Zone and all India champions.
Women: Topped in Plate division.
R Kalpana, daughter of an autorickshaw driver, made debut for India in the Test series against New Zealand.