GUWAHATI: The sprawling Assam Cricket Association stadium at Barsapara is more than just a sports complex. It is the symbol of the rising number of cricket associations in the north-east.
After the induction of states from the region as full members in the BCCI, ACA has assumed the role of a big brother, hand-holding those in need.
As he stands near the practice arena with other officials inspecting the stadium, ACA secretary Devajit Saikia elucidates the role Assam has been playing in providing support to the NE states. He also explains how the state is striving to find that elusive Test player from the region. Excerpts...
With NE states getting full membership, Assam has suddenly assumed the role of a big brother. How is ACA helping them?
The ACA (formed in 1948) is one of the oldest cricket associations in the country, not just the NE. About two years ago, a lot of states in the region got full affiliation. That means they play Ranji Trophy and age-group tournaments.
The major problem is they lack infrastructure to host matches. And ACA having sufficient infrastructure, not that we have an ample amount of it, but like a big brother we allowed them to approach us for grounds. We are providing Meghalaya grounds at Mongoldoi and Assam Valley School. As far as Arunachal is concerned, they are playing in Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Golaghat. Mizoram are playing in Goalpara and Mongoldoi.
For Nagaland, these are in Jorhat and Golaghat. Arunachal also took the ground at Biswanath Chariali. During our season, the ACA is unable to host its own club and district matches because all these grounds are allotted to other states. This is a big help for those four states. We have also let them use the ground at Barsapara. I think Meghalaya, Arunachal and Nagaland held their selection trials in Guwahati.
Apart from that, we are going to start a big academy in Assam with one of the IPL franchises, which will be launched very soon. That academy will give full support to the NE states, as far as training and technical support goes. This academy will help not only Assam, but all the seven states in the region. Other than Tripura and Assam, there is a coordination committee between the other NE states. Soon, we are going to have an NE co-ordination unit with Assam and Tripura also included. Let’s see how things progress.
There was controversy during the washed-out T20I between India and Sri Lanka early this month. Was there a lack of manpower or equipment to dry the pitch?
Loose comments from certain quarters have spoiled ACA’s reputation. We conducted a thorough enquiry. We could not find any hole in the pitch cover. There was no seepage of water from the top. There was no problem with the pitch cover. I don’t know how that idea developed. Had there been problems, the pitch cover would have been replaced because that morning also, it rained for four and a half hours. Nothing happened. At 6.30pm, the ground was ready.
From 6.47 to 7.50 there was heavy rain with a hailstorm. Only 40 minutes were given to get the ground ready. After the covers were removed, there was continuous dew. So even without the rain, there was a chance of the pitch getting damp after the covers were removed. Assam should not hold matches at night in January. This is the lesson we’ve learnt.
After 5 pm, there is constant dew. On that day also, there was continuous mopping of the ground with ropes. That was because of the dew. The pitch was very hard at 5 pm. But at 7 or 6.30, it became soft. These are things we’ve learnt. Maybe in January, we’ll hold only day matches. October-November or February-March is perfect for evening matches in Guwahati.
Is ACA trying to turn this stadium into a Tests venue?
The ACA submitted a representation to the BCCI two months ago, requesting it to have the necessary inspections from all the agencies so that in future we can host Test matches in Guwahati. The Barsapara stadium would be a fine venue. You see the people’s response. There were so many problems 20 days before the T20I, they still swarmed the ground. That was the biggest success.
People were talking about Army and curfew, but within 15 days, they were at the ground enjoying the music. Nobody was annoyed that the game was abandoned. Nobody created any unruly situation.
There are no Test matches this year in India. The next will be in 2021 when England tour India. We’ll make an attempt to have a match here.
We have challenges to overcome to have a Test match here. But the process has started. The intention is not to attract big crowds, but to create a proper atmosphere for players to develop their game. A Test is the ultimate test for cricketers. When young boys see a Test in Guwahati, there will be a lot of motivation and that will help groom them for first-class cricket. People are cricket-crazy, not just in Assam but in the whole of NE.
Are you due funds from the BCCI?
There are some as far as the infrastructure fund is concerned. Whether under the new committee or the earlier one, even during the CoA’s time, there was a regular flow of funds for cricketing activities. Regarding the infrastructure development fund, that will start after a few months. In the last meeting on December 1, 2019, there were discussions on this and there is a scope of enhancing the quantum of infrastructure development.