MUMBAI: Forty acres of prime land owned by the BCCI, less than a 20 minute drive from the international airport at Devanahalli in Bengaluru and criss-crossed between two national highways, has been lying unattended for close to five months after it was completely paid for and the deed registered early this year.
The land in question is one that was allotted by the government of Karnataka around eight years ago, and now happens to be the only property that the BCCI owns in the country. The Board ‘intends’ to construct a high-performance centre that would make for a revamped National Cricket Academy (NCA). Sanjay Desai, former opening batsman for Karnataka and now the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), who was instrumental in procuring the land from the state government at a reduced price so that the BCCI could go ahead with its plans, is appalled at how things have shaped up.
“40 acres of land is lying there. Rs50 crore has been paid for it and nobody’s bothered to find out if it even needs a compound wall. You can’t leave prime land just like that,” Desai tells TOI, a day after it was reported that the Board has lacked vision on how it wants to go about with the NCA revamp.
“If this is the kind of money that has been paid to secure a property, wouldn’t you go once and see the property for yourself? None of them have even visited the land except for BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary.
That’s because people who are above 60 years of age are busy taking decisions on who should stay and who should retire after what age,” says the KSCA president, who is 62.
Desai’s tryst with cricket ended in unfortunate circumstances 40 years ago, when he damaged his left eye keeping wickets in a 1978 Ranji match between Karnataka and Andhra. The ball hit the stumps and the dislodged bail hit Desai in the left eye.
“Do you know, this is the only property that BCCI owns anywhere in the country. And what is happening with the property? Nothing. Who is responsible? Nobody,” Desai, a member of NCA committee, says.
Desai attended the last NCA meeting held in Delhi this September where he pleaded with those present to at least upgrade the gym equipment in the existing facility. “The same gym equipment that was there when Virat Kohli was playing India Under-19 still exists,” he says.
His grouse is that nobody is interested in doing anything. “From what I understand, the NCA committee has been dissolved. I don’t even know any more if I am a member or not. Today, the CoA tells us what we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do. That means, the CoA is running the place. In that case, what is the CoA’s commitment to this? Is cricket even a priority?” he adds.
Desai says the last person from BCCI who took some interest on his own to come and see the land was MV Sridhar, the former BCCI general manager, cricket operations.
“My generation of cricketers didn’t play the game for money. It was a passion. We try to give back to the game that has given us so much. The next generation may do things differently. But today, Diana Eduljee – who has played the game herself – never comes for these meetings. She’s only interested in getting money for women cricketers,” says Desai.