They say patience pays, always. But cricket-crazy Pune fans wouldn’t have expected their patience to be rewarded in such a grand manner.
For more than six years, Pune supporters were deprived of watching international cricketers in action. Their wish was eventually fulfilled on Sunday as the Pune Warriors India hosted Kings XI Punjab at the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s (MCA’s) Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on the outskirts of the city.
When the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium hosted an ODI between India and Sri Lanka on November 3, 2005, it was marred my chaos. As a result, after the match, the MCA president Ajay Shirke had announced that the Nehru Stadium had hosted its last big match.
And once Shirke and his colleagues zeroed in on the 50-odd acre plot, around 30 km from the heart of the town, it took more than four years for their dream to realise. The total cost of the project rose every day, but since Shirke did not want to compromise when it came to “delivering an ultra-modern, spectator-friendly stadium that will give an unobstructed view from every seat in the stands”, the owners of the city’s IPL franchise stepped. All that Sahara group asked for was for the stadium to be named after its boss, for a consideration of Rs215 crore.
Once the financial front was taken care of, there was no stopping Shirke and Co as they came up with one of the best cricket venues in the country. “I still can’t believe I am watching a match in Pune,” said Ashish Deshpande, an architect based in Sydney, one of the 40,000-plus who attended the game. “It’s similar to watching a match at the SCG or MCG.”
The presence of Bollywood actors in a glittering opening ceremony before the game was icing on the cake. As the Sahara bigwigs stole the limelight with the glamour girls, instead of soaking in the success of his hard work, Shirke was planning to get things going for the first T20 International to be hosted at the stadium later this year. “The dream is realised. But it’s just the beginning,” he told HT.