Homecomings are synonymous with professional sportsperson. For Sulakshan Kulkarni, the Tamil Nadu head coach, Friday was one such occasion when his side trained at the Dadoji Konddev Stadium ahead of its Vijay Hazare Trophy Group E opener against Goa.
Having grown up in the central city adjacent to Mumbai, Kulkarni - the former Mumbai wicketkeeper-batter - spent his formative years in and around the stadium that was inaugurated in 1982.
“I have literally seen this stadium coming up from the scratch and I have the fondest of memories from playing here, right from a star-studded invitational tournament organised soon after the stadium was ready,” Kulkarni told The Hindu on Friday.
“Returning to the same venue as a coach, that too with a formidable side like Tamil Nadu, is special.”
After making his First Class debut for Railways in 1985-86, Kulkarni made his maiden Ranji Trophy appearance for Mumbai at his home ground the following season. Almost a decade later, he scored a gutsy 96 and a daddy hundred - 161 - in successive Ranji outings against Maharashtra and Saurashtra, respectively.
The latter, in January 1996, turned out to be the last of the six Ranji matches hosted by the stadium. After being in the doldrums for over two decades, the stadium owned by the Thane Municipal Corporation has been revived over the last four years.
Besides hosting age-group matches, the stadium is staging Vijay Hazare Trophy games for the second time in the last three seasons.
“This is such a sporting wicket and a proper stadium. Now with the authorities adding floodlights, I just hope that the big-league cricket keeps coming back to my hometown so that I can keep coming back here again and again,” signed off Kulkarni, with a wide smile.
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