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Winter fair is foul for flannels in cradle of cricket

Word from the capital that Sourav Ganguly had been dropped from Team India may have touched a raw nerve in the corridors of Writers' Buildings, but a cry from a cradle of cricket just 10 km away is yet to find a sympathetic ear.

For budding cricketers in the city, it's a nasty toe-crusher early in the season. The city civic body has no-balled all cricket at Deshapriya Park for four winter weeks, allowing the precious patch of green in the heart of south Calcutta to be overrun by a khadi exposition instead.

The executive engineer of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has granted permission to the chief executive officer of the West Bengal Khadi & Village Board to hold the national-level exhibition 'from December 18, 2005 to January 14, 2006'.

The park ground is shared by four CAB-affiliated clubs ' Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS), Milan Samity, Ballygunge Sporting and Sarat Samity. Of the 20 League matches scheduled at the venue, only two have been played and the remaining 18 must be relocated if the fair organisers are allowed to dig up the square. The cricket coaching clinics must also take a forced break in peak season.

'For the first time in more than 50 years, cricket will be disrupted at Deshapriya Park. This is in gross violation of an order passed by then mayor Prasanta Chatterjee that the park would be used only for sports and no commercial activity would be allowed on the premises,' says Hironmoy Chatterjee, honorary secretary of DKS.

The sitting mayor sees nothing wrong in fairs elbowing out flannels. 'What difference does it make if they don't play cricket for a month' The park belongs to the CMC and we are using it for a much bigger cause. The Khadi Mela is significant since Gandhiji was at the forefront of the khadi movement,' Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya tells Metro.

The Maidan's cricket fraternity is stumped. 'It's a body blow for the game in the city and for such a venue,' feels Goutam Shome, who turns out for DKS in the League.

Coach and ex-cricketer Gopal Bose, who has trained youngsters for years and also played at Deshapriya Park, is shocked: 'This is extremely disturbing. Cricket is shut out since someone's making money, yet the authorities are not bothered.'

Local councillor Debasish Kumar is planning a relay hunger strike with kids at the park's cricket coaching clinics to protest the CMC move. 'My plea to the mayor, the chief minister and the urban development minister has fallen on deaf ears and I'm helpless,' he says. Residents of the area are readying a public interest litigation to foil the foul play of the park being fair game.

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