The Sports Authority of India (SAI) academy for cricket at the Capital’s National Stadium, which is one of the most iconic academies having produced over a dozen international and hundreds of first-class cricketers, is being given the short shrift nowadays.
The academy, which serves as a refuge for hopefuls from underprivileged backgrounds, had to close down this month for a few days due to a private function, ‘Ram Katha’ by Morari Bapu, which was organised on the academy ground from September 16 to September 24. It meant that cricketing activities had to be stopped for at least 10 days, something that has not happened in the past.
Pictures of the ground available with Patriot immediately after the end of the programme show that the pitch as well as the grass on the field have been affected and it will take time for them to be returned to original state, affecting proper practice.
“Generally, the pitch can be brought back to its original state within a couple of days, but the grass takes some time to grow back. It means that the kids will lose some quality practice days at a venue created solely for the purpose of training them in cricket,” said a former coach who had been connected with SAI cricket academies.
A top official of SAI, who did not want to be named, admitted that SAI’s cricket facility at National Stadium was given out for the private function and this could become the norm in future.
“Cricket is not a priority sport nowadays for SAI, which is focussing on other sports. The government’s policy is to raise funds from private events to fund the maintenance of the government-owned sports facilities. The said event was part of the ongoing ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’,” said the official to Patriot.
While he has a point in the fact that SAI is not focussing on cricket, having removed the comprehensive 10-and-a-half-month long diploma course in cricket coaching from the roster of National Institute of Sports, Patiala, since 2020-21, while keeping only the 6-week certificate course, the trainees coming to the National Stadium as well as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for practice under SAI scheme are generally those who cannot pay fees at the academies in the Capital which generally charge between Rs 2000 and 3000 a month. Many even charge Rs 10,000-15,000 a month.
In contrast, the annual fees for cricket at the SAI academies is just Rs 100.
“This has never happened before, the fact that cricket coaching had to be shut for 10 days at National Stadium which was nurtured by Dronacharya and Padma Shri Gurcharan Singh. There is an annual ‘Run for Unity’ event on the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for which the facility at National Stadium is shut for a couple of days but not for so long. This, unfortunately, may become a norm in the future,” said the coach.