Upon entry into the ACA-VDCA cricket stadium in Visakhapatnam, the sight of the lush green outfield welcomes you. The hills in the background make the setting even more charming.
In October 2014, it was a lot different as Cyclone Hudhud left a trail of devastation across the port-city, including the cricket stadium.
At that time, officials of the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) were busy making last-minute arrangements for India’s One-day International against West Indies. However, the match was called off and the teams never reached the city owing to the warnings.
Two years hence, the Dr YSR Reddy ACA-VDCA stadium, as it is formally called, hosted its first international match since the natural calamity left it in tatters.
The effects of the cyclone are long gone, but some of the city’s residents still recall those few days with horror.
Winds of speeds up to 200 kmph had lashed the port city killing dozens of people. Many structures, including the stadium, took a beating during the storm. Walls collapsed, seats were uprooted, equipment destroyed, sheet used for the roof flew off, even the massive covers used to cover the wickets were blown away.
ACA secretary G Ganga Raju recalls those couple of days as the worst he has encountered. “Such was the severity of the storm that none of us could even attempt to drive down to the stadium. There was extensive damage, the city’s airport was left ruined, you can imagine how bad the stadium looked,” said Ganga Raju.
Another ACA official, CR Mohan was stuck at the venue for a couple of days. “I, along with a few other people, was making last-minute preparations for the match that night. And then the cyclone hit. We were holed up in the home team dressing room. At the time, we thought there would be no end to that night,” said Mohan.
The damage to the stadium was estimated at around Rs 2.5crore. A few smart decisions got the cost of rebuilding down to Rs 1.2 crore, claims Raju.
The association used the moment to give the stadium a facelift. “At that time we were trying our best to earn Test status. But Hudhud brought that process to a halt,” Mohan says.
Repairs though were done quickly and to get Test status, a brand new media box was also erected. A panel headed by former India cricketer Gundappa Viswanath inspected the ground and two years after facing the wrath of mother nature, it was granted Test status --- at the recently-held AGM of the India cricket board.
“People say, do the basics right. Our insistence on having a solid drainage system saved the wicket and ground that day. Once the storm was gone, the field was clear of water within hours. If not for the drainage system, we could have been staring at a complete overhaul,” Mohan added.