Sher-i-Kashmir stadium is home to India cricketer Pervez Rasool (above) © Getty Images
Sher-i-Kashmir stadium is home to Pervez Rasool (above) © Getty Images

Dec 12, 2012

Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) was angered by the turning over of the Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium into a platform for political rallies by the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government. However, they seemed helpless against the might of political parties, reported Daily Times UK. “What can we do? The government doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation. We are angry but helpless” said a senior JKCA official.

The stadium first played platform to a rally addressed by prime minister, Narendra Modi, on Monday and a couple of days later, on Thursday, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mufti Muhammad Sayeed took the stage to address people in a rally.

Prime minister, Narendra Modi, was the first person to address a rally at the main ground. Prior to this political rallies would be staged at the stadium’s academy which is just adjacent to the ground. Among the people who addressed rallies at the academy includes, former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

According to the officials, the already faint hope of staging an international match at the 12000-capacity-stadium took a further hit because of the rallies. Work to upgrade the stadium to international standards began in 2003 and has seen the development of main pavilion, commentator’s box, media gallery and players’ pavilion.

Construction work on the stadium had to be stalled in 2012, however, on account of the emergence of a scam, wherein JKCA officials were accused of diverting Rs. 50 crores to three different accounts opened in the name of JKCA by officials. The sum was granted to JKCA by BCCI as a subsidy.

Ever since, the accused officials have been sacked and replaced. The case is still under investigation even as the police are yet to file a charge-sheet. The work on the pitch and surrounding areas resumed earlier this year, with officials claiming to have pumped Rs. 1 crore in the project. However, they are unaware of what damages may have been caused to the pitch by the rallies this far.

“It will be only assessed once the Assembly election is over. The stadium belongs to JKCA. The government has nothing to do with it; still political parties get permission from the deputy commissioner, Srinagar to hold rallies here,” said an angry J&K official, who chose to be unnamed.

He went on to add, “I wonder how government gives permission to politicians for addressing the public at the sole cricket stadium in the state and how government thinks it has the right to accord permission when the stadium is not its property.”

The first match of importance that was played at the stadium, which was built in 1957, happened in 1979 against a touring Australia vs North Zone. The stadium’s international match debut came about 4 years later with India playing host to West Indies on October 5, 1983. Another, international match between India and Australia was played here on September 9, 1986. The international matches here sparked controversy due to the local crowd backing the tourists, who in both cases went onto win.

International matches were not staged at the ground thereafter because of the militancy that engulfed the state. The stadium has been given special protection by the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), by setting up bunkers around it. Officials were concerned that their plans to appeal for International status for the stadium were being jeopardized by the activities of political rallies.