Budding cricketers in Thane have nowhere to play, as the popular Dadoji Konddev stadium has been shut since the monsoon. However, in an irony of sorts, the stadium was given out for an advertising film shoot featuring Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni yesterday.
According to coaches of clubs that use the stadium, practice at the ground has stopped since the monsoon began and players have not been allowed to make use of the facility even now, despite the rains having receded a month ago. Coaches and players said the ground is being primarily used as a venue for gatherings like award functions and music concerts.
On Wednesday, the ground was home to an ad shoot featuring Dhoni. Kiran Salgaonkar, a coach at one of the clubs that use the stadium, said, "Usually, every year, the authorities allow practice sessions to resume after Dussehra (which was on October 4 this year). However, budding cricketers are not being permitted to use the ground even now.
Sometimes, these cricketers come from far-flung places and they have to return disappointed. This is the only ground in the city and it should be put to good use." More than 500 players of various age groups come to the stadium to practice.
Salgaonkar added that players get only four days a week to practice and 16 days a month is not enough time for the young cricketers. He rued the loss of time, especially during Diwali vacation, when children were at home but couldn't play due to the stadium remaining shut.
Shailesh Pawar (16) comes to the ground from Dombivli. "Going to Mumbai takes too long, given where I stay. I have had to return several times without playing a single ball, as the stadium was occupied for some occasion."
Sandesh Patil (name changed), another coach, added, "The stadium is mostly occupied due to social functions. Children do not get time to play, and this is the only cricket stadium in Thane." Nearly 16 clubs each with 25 players operate at the stadium, paying a total charge of Rs 25,000 for eight months.
When mid-day spoke to Minal Palande, manager of the stadium and sports officer at Thane Municipal Corporation, she said, "For security reasons, the ground was shut to players on Wednesday. We have already allowed the players to practice inside the stadium from November 1. The delay in resuming activities was due to the elections."
Palande added that as per the municipal resolution, the ad agency was charged Rs 75,000 for using the premises from 9 am to 4 pm yesterday. However, Salgaonkar rejected these claims, saying no practice nets had been installed in the ground and practice had not begun.
He also complained that facilities in the stadium were not up to the mark. Sandeep Malawi, stadium in-charge, replied, "Due to untimely rains this year, the ground could not be prepared and, hence, there was a delay. We have already started allowing children to play and there was no deliberate delay from our side."