How far can you go to satiate your passion for cricket? Ask Ranganathan Parameswaran Easwaran, who bought a huge piece of land in Dehradun back in 2005, spent an astronomical amount from his pocket to build a first-class cricket stadium.
Come January 3, when Bengal take on hosts Uttarakhand in a Ranji Trophy Group A encounter, Easwaran can’t be faulted for being a tad nostalgic as son Abhimanyu, an opener knocking on national team door, will be playing a first-class match at the ‘Abhimanyu Cricket Academy Stadium’.
“It is a proud moment for me to play a Ranji game at a ground where I have learnt all my cricket as a young boy. This is a result of his (father) love and hardwork and it is always a great feeling to come home but once you are on the field, the focus is on winning the game for Bengal,” 27-year-old Abhimanyu, who has 19 hundreds and was recently part of the Indian Test squad in Bangladesh, told PTI on the eve of the match.
While stadiums named after legendary cricketers post retirement isn’t a new phenomenon, there aren’t too many examples where an active Indian uncapped first-class cricketer was going to ply his trade on a cricket stadium named after him.
Whether the Viv Richards ground in Antigua, Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba (Trinidad & Tobago) or Allan Border field in Brisbane, the grounds and stadiums were rechristened once the legends finished their illustrious careers.
In that regard, Abhimanyu playing at ‘Abhimanyu Stadium’ is indeed a special occasion for both father and son.
The picturesque ground, which also has floodlights, has been adopted by the BCCI for some years now with a lot of domestic matches (senior, junior, women and age-group) being held but never before has the owner of the stadium himself played a first-class game.
“Yes, I don’t think there are many instances, but for me this is not an achievement. Yes, it feels good but the real achievement would be if my son can play 100 Tests for India. This is a stadium I built because of my passion for the game and not just for my son,” RP Easwaran told PTI ahead of the Ranji Trophy game.
“I started constructing (it) in 2006 and I am still spending from my pocket to upgrade it constantly. There are no returns but it’s all about my love for the game.” A chartered accountant by profession, Easwaran started the ‘Abhimanyu Cricket Academy’ in 1988 even before his son was born in 1995.
“I had been a newspaper vendor and sold ice-creams in Dehradun as I completed my CA degree. I wanted to give back to the game and it is my good fortune that God gave me a son who also plays cricket. But the passion to create a cricket facility was always there. Now I have left active practice and just relax,” the sense of fulfilment was palpable in Easwaran senior’s tone.
While he is a proud father of an India ‘A’ captain, what gives him more satisfaction is that his academy has produced five players who are in the Uttarakhand Ranji team, including seamer Deepak Dhapola, who got eight wickets in the last game.
“Mohammed Shami, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik have all come here and practised at our facility. We have built 60 rooms for accommodation, 20 hostel rooms, floodlit indoor practice facility during monsoon, state-of-the-art gymnasium, staff quarters, in-house laundry, bakery,” Easwaran said.
When Abhimanyu was asked about the Uttarakhand players, with whom he has grown up training, he said that in this day and age, every bit of data is available.
“Yes, I have practised with a lot of them and I wouldn’t deny it helps. But in today’s day and age with extensive video analysis being done, no one has any distinct advantages as such,” Abhimanyu said, stating that the pitch at his “home stadium” is going to be a “sporting one”.
Abhimanyu’s state team head coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla is a battle-hardened professional, who doesn’t want his ward to be emotional.
“It is a fantastic ground, pitch looks good and outfield is great. But I know Abhi (that’s how he is called in cricketing circles). He is a practical boy and we have a Ranji game to play and he is focused on that. It is good for you media people as it is an interesting fact,” Shukla said.