Hawking facilities, ACA style

The Indoor Stadium at Mangalagiri.-CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR

The Andhra Cricket Association is providing world class infrastructure to attract foreign teams to train in India. By J. R. Shridharan.

The Andhra Cricket Association (ACA), once considered the punching bag of South Zone, has virtually knocked out its counterparts of the region with regard to the sprucing up of quality infrastructure.

The Association, which agonisingly occupied the last place in the points tally in the yesteryear, has gradually lifted its performance in all formats and in the infrastructure front it has overtaken all its counterparts, coming up with stadiums, academies and playfields with a lush green ambience.

The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the London-based Hampshire Sports Inc. Limited (HSIL) and the soon-to-be signed agreement with the Cricket Association of Thailand (CAT) are steps taken towards putting to use ACA’s sophisticated stadiums and playfields to the optimum use.

The arrangement is also meant to improve the standard of the players through exchange tours. The contract with the HSIL will grant exclusive rights to the off-shore outfit to market the modern cricketing venues located at Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Kadapa, Guntur and Mangalagiri.

“The marketing plan will be taken up in a phased manner starting with the UK and UAE in the first year. Later we will hunt for clients in Africa and West Indies. The pact includes conditioning tours, exchange and development programmes of players of both segments,” says former India stumper and ACA Director (Operations) M. S. K. Prasad.

He says teams and clubs of the United Kingdom preferred to practice in Sri Lanka and UAE during the off-season as it worked out cheaper for them.

“As our facilities are in no way inferior to modern international stadiums, overseas teams can make use of our venues both for practice and exposure trips. The indoor stadium at Mangalagiri in Guntur District is nearing completion. It can provide hindrance-free training sessions for teams during the rainy season.”

The indoor stadium, built at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.5 crore, operates on solar energy and players can practice on eight astro-turf wickets. “Cameras are installed in the front, back and side angles to help film batting and bowling actions for the coaches to analyse later.”

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gave guidelines to the State associations to develop their own infrastructure when former Aussie cricketer Dav Whatmore was the chief of the National Cricket Academy.

“We are spending 50 per cent of the grant on infrastructure. The rest is for coaching schemes and administrative purposes,” says ACA Secretary Gokaraju Ganga Raju.

“ACA deserves a big pat on its back for coming up with good many playfields, academies and stadiums with facilities as specified by the BCCI. As the Development Officer of the Asian Cricket Council, I have come to help Thailand improve its cricket by making use of the facilities here,” says former India spinner Venkatapathy Raju, who accompanied the CAT delegation to see the facilities in Guntur District.

Says CAT Chief Executive Officer Mohideen Kader, “Our women’s team made history by winning the ACC T-20 championship in 2013 and in the ICC women’s World Cup qualifiers we defeated teams from Canada and Zimbabwe. We heard about the Guntur Academy and hence the visit.”

A view of the Women's Cricket Academy in Guntur.-T. VIJAYA KUMAR

The academy is housed in a college campus thus providing the much-needed security to the women players. It has three floors with an air-conditioned gym on the ground floor. It has 16 rooms, including 12 double-bed rooms and a dormitory, which can accommodate 50 players.

“The Board has adopted the academy and from now on it will be called the BCCI Women’s Academy. The Academy has already hosted a couple of conditioning camps for Indian teams. This will be the hub of the Indian women’s cricket,” adds Ganga Raju.

In 2010, an 18-member Chinese women team which visited Vijayawada to take part in a quadrangular tourney was at the Guntur academy for two weeks to hone its skills.

Prasad made a trip to England recently to promote the venues and interacted with clubs in Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Leeds. “The exposure trip will be a boon for junior players for they will get the all-important experience of playing in different weather conditions,” he says.

Prasad, who is also a NCA level-2 coach, said that under the contractual obligation, ACA will provide information on venues, technical details as required by the visiting teams and ensure quintessential quality at venues on a par with international standards.

“The Association will be responsible for the touring teams while in India. HSIL will take up all the marketing and sales functions, pricing, logistics support including ticketing and ground transfers to and from the airports.”

The next three years will be crucial for Team ACA, which is aiming to provide quality playfields in all its 13 affiliated districts that are good enough to host a first-class match.

The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has come in handy for ACA as efforts are on, on war-footing, to develop airports in Gannavaram (near Vijayawada), Tirupati and Rajahmundry on the lines of the Vizag international airport. This will enhance air connectivity of the newly-formed Seemandhra with the other cricket-playing countries.