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The HCA, at least, is grateful
- Chandrababu Naidu okayed lease, setting in motion the construction of an exclusive cricket stadium

Calcutta: The electorate has logged Chandrababu Naidu out of Andhra Pradesh, but the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) will remain grateful to the Telegu Desam supremo.

It was as chief minister, after all, that Naidu allowed his government to lease 16 acres to the HCA for developing a stadium of its own. But for him, the cricket fraternity’s “dream” would have remained just that.

Naidu okayed the (20-year) lease exactly two years ago and the facility is “40 per cent ready,” according to HCA patron M. Ranga Reddy, who is also a Board of Control for Cricket in India vice-president.

In fact, before being voted out, the Naidu government agreed to lease an additional four acres.

Ranga Reddy, though, doesn’t expect the new regime (to be headed by Congress’ Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy) to reverse the four acres-decision. “Given that the ball has been set rolling, we don’t expect problems from the new dispensation,” he told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

The HCA patron added that the Naidu government gave the land on exceptionally favourable terms: “Actually, we only paid Rs three lakh, when the market price is today in the region of many crores… The chief minister was very kind…”

But, then, Naidu made an exception for a larger cause. Just as he invested crores in hosting the last National Games — an event most states don’t wish to touch even with the biggest bargepole this side of the Suez.

Of course, some may question his attempt at bringing F-1 racing to Hyderabad, a desire which brought about a much-publicised meeting with Bernie Ecclestone not many months ago. Whatever the field, however, a fast track approach didn’t quite catch the average Andhraite’s fancy.

Incidentally, the stadium is coming up a mere three kms from the Gymkhana Ground, from where the HCA currently operates.

Ranga Reddy, who is hopeful that the facility is going to be “100 per cent” ready by end-September, said the HCA is likely to offer it as a venue for a three-dayer during Australia’s trip to India later this year.

“Ideally, for a number of reasons, we wouldn’t like the first big match to have Test or ODI status… Let’s see how fast we complete the stadium and what the Australians’ schedule looks like,” Ranga Reddy remarked.

At the moment, international fixtures allotted to the HCA are hosted by the multi-purpose Lal Bahadur Stadium, which is an asset of the Andhra Sports Council.

Hyderabad hasn’t staged a Test since 1988-89, when Dilip Vengsarkar’s India beat the John Wright-captained New Zealand. As for ODIs, there was one a mere six months ago — Team India put it across New Zealand in what had become a tri-series ‘semi-final’.

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