Ground reality hits Northeast states before first-class debut

With the domestic season set to begin next month, the cricket administrators from India’s northeast states find themselves in a strange situation at the moment.

Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland have grounds in Shillong, Imphal and Dimapur respectively, it needs to be seen whether they could be made ready well within time.   -  Facebook/Naba Bhattacharjee

The cricket administrators from India’s northeast states find themselves in a strange situation at the moment. While they are excited to finally achieve their dreams of featuring in the Ranji Trophy as independent teams, they have also been put in a bit of a spot.

After all, there’s too much to do in a short period of time.

With the domestic season set to begin next month, the five northeast states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim — need to immediately fix a few things to ensure that their respective teams get off to a smooth start in the first-class cricket arena.

And first in the priority list is getting the grounds ready for the domestic matches. While the cricket associations of Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland have grounds in Shillong, Imphal and Dimapur respectively, it needs to be seen whether they could be made ready well within time. For Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the things are even more difficult as none of the two have grounds to conduct first-class cricket.

“We cannot play at home as there are no grounds here. We have already written to the BCCI that our home matches should be held in either Kolkata or Assam. Or even, Odisha. We don’t have grounds,” Sikkim Cricket Association’s president, Lobzang G Tenzing, told Sportstar.

With no funds released, the associations’ woes have only increased. With no money, the associations have to rely on the BCCI for expenditure. The issues have already been raised to the Northeast task force, which has been formed by the Board. “We have conveyed all our problems. It is up to the Board to clear things out at the soonest,” Singam Priyananda Singh, the secretary of Manipur Cricket Association, said.

While the members of the task force have already started visiting the centres—a team visited Shillong a couple of days back—the northeast units have also called a meeting in Shillong next week to decide the future course of action. “While we are extremely happy that after years of struggle, we have been cleared for the Ranji Trophy, but now, we have to decide a lot of things quickly and that’s why it is important that the members meet,” Naba Bhattacharjee, co-ordinator of the BCCI’s NADP committee, said.

In the meeting, the secretaries of the state units, it has been learnt, will discuss how to get things in order. Another important discussion will be on appointing coaching staff for the teams. It has been learnt that the northeast units have already told the BCCI that either it has to provide coaching staff for all the teams or ensure that they get the services of professional coaches. “Whatever it is, the Board has to bear the expenses because we don’t have funds,” a senior official said.

With little more than a month left for the tournaments to begin, the challenge is also to form age-group teams and with nothing to fall back on, as of now, the associations appear a bit confused. “We have been requesting the Board to give us a clarity for the last two years, but so far, there have only been meetings and assurances. Now, all of a sudden, we find ourselves in a spot of bother,” the senior official said.

Last year, the northeast states had featured in women’s cricket and age-group formats and their poor performance had raised question marks over their future. And that is one of the reasons the state units are sceptical of. “If things go wrong then it is easy to raise fingers. But sadly, we are boxing without gloves,” a seasoned official remarked.

They may have come strikingly closer to the first-class level, but difficulties and concerns are far from over for the five northeast units.