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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

I’ll bring glory back to Khadki, says Dhanraj Pillay

Dhanraj Pillay wants a Khadki ground to be handed to him and in a year, he says he will turn it around

pune Updated: Aug 11, 2017 09:20 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Players of Puneri Paltan team  members take selfie with veteran Hockey player Dhanaraj Pillay at the launch of 10K INTENCITY Run in Pune on August 8. Pillay was in the city as a guest at the event.
Players of Puneri Paltan team members take selfie with veteran Hockey player Dhanaraj Pillay at the launch of 10K INTENCITY Run in Pune on August 8. Pillay was in the city as a guest at the event.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Pune’s relationship with hockey has been a love-hate one.

Centred around the Khadki community of hockey players and sport lovers, backed in no small part by the several defence forces’ teams, Pune hates to see the game die, but loves to do little about it.

Hindustan Times has been looking closely at the state of play in Khadki and around the city of Pune.

Hockey grounds have been constructed and renovated by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB), each at a cost of ₹5.75 crore.

These grounds, that are situated at Chikhalwadi off Aundh road and at Khadki, are currently dilapidated due to complete neglect.

The irony is that Khadki’s home-grown Olympian and former Indian hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay has been running a hockey academy for 100 children in Gujarat, at the invitation of the Gujarat government.

Dhanraj has been working at the Sports Authority of Gujarat academy run by the Vivekananad Pratibha Samvardhan Kendra, Vadodara, since 2014.

Vikas Pillay, another Olympian hockey star from Khadki, has now been invited by the Himachal Pradesh government to start an academy in Simla.

When contacted, both told HT they have been wanting to do something similar in Pune, but have not been getting the necessary support from sports and civic officials in the city.

Dhanraj, 49, is the only Indian to have represented the national hockey team at four Olympic events, four Champion Trophies and four World Cups.

The sad state of the hockey ground at Chikkalwadi stadium, Khadki.
The sad state of the hockey ground at Chikkalwadi stadium, Khadki. ( HT PHOTO )

A former captain of the Indian Hockey team, he is the recipient of the Arjuna Award (1995), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (2000) and Padma Shri (2001).

Dhanraj, who began playing hockey as a child in Khadki with broken sticks and makeshift goals, made his national debut in 1989.

Now keen to revive hockey in Pune, especially since he has his roots here, Dhanraj wants to take charge of the idle hockey ground in Khadki.

“I will bring the glory back to Khadki,” Dhanraj said in an exclusive interview to HT. “The current state of the hockey ground in Khadki which produced several international players in the past, is saddening. If given a free hand, I will bring the glory back to Khadki within one year,” he said.

Dhanraj was in the city recently to support a 10K event.

“I have spent years trying to convince sports and civic officials in Pune. I was eager to start an academy in Khadki, but even after so many meetings and discussions, my proposal just remained on paper. Finally, I moved to Gujarat where they have given me the opportunity to develop hockey. If the Maharashtra government really wants to do something for hockey and promote the sport in Khadki, they should act accordingly,” he said.

Dhanraj described the present state of the hockey grounds at Chikhalwadi and Khadki as “horrible”. As he said, “I have seen the horrible condition of the Chikhalwadi stadium and the KCB ground. Even after so many years, these grounds have not been developed and players are forced to move out of the city and the state. It is really painful.”

With a deep sense of conviction, he claims he can make a difference to the city. “I have an offer for them. Put me in-charge of any one of these two grounds. I have my contacts and sources and I will develop the ground and bring astro-turf within a year. You will see the place buzzing with talented youngsters. I will definitely devote my time for this and will bring back the lost glory to the area in which I was born and brought up,” he said.

Responding to Dhanraj’s initiative, Hockey Maharashtra’s general secretary Manoj Bhore said, “We welcome his offer and would try our best to get him to develop hockey in Maharashtra again. It’s unfortunate that the Maharashtra government is ignoring sporting stars from our own state and other states are getting the benefit of their expertise.”

Bhore added: “It is not just Dhanraj, but another Olympian from Khadki, Vikas Pillay, who has been invited to start an academy in Simla, by Himachal Pradesh government. It’s high time that Maharashtra should think on Dhanraj’s offer and give him whole hearted support.”

The hockey ground at Khadki Cantonment sports complex in Pune.
The hockey ground at Khadki Cantonment sports complex in Pune. ( HT PHOTO )

SIDEBAR: The sad saga of two stadia

Such is the deplorable neglect of the hockey infrastructure in Khadki, that the grounds which once used to be thronged by hockey enthusiasts, have now degenerated into deserted lots. While a few crore rupees were spent on these grounds and the stadia by the civic bodies, budding hockey players are struggling to find a proper ground for training. Not a single tournament has been organised in the Khadki area now due to the absence of decent grounds.

What’s worse is that even Hockey Maharashtra’s attempts to improve the grounds have proved fruitless. Hockey Maharashtra officials even held negotiations for the purchase of astro-turf for the ground but those talks remained unproductive.

“We recently had a meeting with state sports minister Vinod Tawade and told him how other states were investing money for sports facilities. Maharashtra is losing out on this front in a big way and we urged the minister to give importance to the overall sports development in state. We are having a general body meeting on August 12 in Aurangabad and will discuss the condition of these grounds,” Bhore said.

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hockey stadium in Chikhalwadi, built in 2008 is a 21,200 square metre stadium with a spectator capacity of 1,000. The construction cost of the stadium was ₹1.25 crores. Two years later, ₹3.25 crores was spent for renovation. It was expected to be an ideal venue for local hockey enthusiasts. Teams like Rovers Sports Academy, Railway Police and Super XI would have benefited hugely from the renovation and the stadium would have become a popular venue for local and state level tournaments. Unfortunately, this beautiful venue was neglected completely and turned into a hot spot for liquor parties and gambling.

The Khadki Cantonment Board’s (KCB) stadium also tells the same story. After spending ₹1.25 crore, KCB inaugurated this stadium in 2015. Even a proposal to install astroturf was sent to the state government, with a request for another ₹ 5 crore. But, the stadium is nowhere near readiness to host serious tournaments.

Hockey development in Gujarat

Sports Authority of Gujarat appointed Dhanraj Pillay as a mentor to train the youth in 2014. Dhanraj then visited Rajkot, Modasa and Gandhinagar for a talent hunt. He is currently working as the chief coach at Vivekananad Pratibha Samvardhan Kendra, Vadodara, where 100 children are training under him.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 09:19 IST

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