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‘Subhasbabu is like God’
- Kapil delighted with sports minister’s offer to let ICL use state grounds

Calcutta: Only recently, Union railway minister Lalu Prasad set the cat among the pigeons by offering use of his ministry’s infrastructure to the Kapil Dev-headed Indian Cricket League (ICL).

On Thursday evening, 48 hours after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declared Kapil and his band persona non grata, Bengal’s sports minister Subhas Chakraborty did a Lalu.

“Whatever facilities we have, we may make them available to the ICL… We have around 59 grounds… If Kapil and the others (even) want to play at the Eden, what’s the harm' I will definitely allow them to play there…”

As the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has sought renewal of the Eden’s lease from the Defence authorities, it’s debatable to what extent Chakraborty can actually play host there, but he could (among other venues) offer the massive Salt Lake Stadium.

According to Chakraborty, the state government has a role in the lease’s renewal.

For his part, CAB president Prasun Mukherjee declined to comment. “I’m in Nagpur, on a private visit, and won’t say anything till I’m back in Calcutta…”

That should be on Friday.

It’s no secret that Chakraborty and Mukherjee, the city’s commissioner of police, aren’t on the best of terms.

Indeed, during last year’s CAB elections, Chakraborty openly backed Jagmohan Dalmiya when the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-supported Mukherjee challenged him.

The Kapil-Chakraborty equation is, of course, different and the former was ecstatic (and emotional) when The Telegraph conveyed what the sports minister told the media in Calcutta.

“That’s great news… For us, Subhasbabu is like a God… You must have heard of the saying ‘jinka koi nahin hota, unka bhagwan hota hai’… Well, he’s like a God…”

Speaking from New Delhi, Kapil added: “Now that Subhasbabu has made an announcement, we’re going to seek permission… We’ll approach the government with folded hands… I’m always going to be grateful to those who help our cause.”

The BCCI’s affiliates, like the CAB, have been forbidden from allowing the ICL to use any infrastructure. And, so, Chakraborty’s gesture is significant.

While some may link it to his fondness for Dalmiya, who is anathema to those currently calling the shots in the Sharad Pawar-headed BCCI, the sports minister and Kapil have been pretty close for much more than a decade.

Back in the early 1990s, Chakraborty had even persuaded Kapil to wear the East Bengal colours in soccer!

More recently, India’s only World Cup-winning captain made brief visits to grace functions organised by Chakraborty or his associates.

Now, the sports minister has decided to do his bit.

Thursday’s developments have come at a time when the BCCI is planning its own Twenty20 league to rival the Zee-funded ICL.

Ironically, till not too long ago, the BCCI had been vehemently opposed to the Twenty20 format. The U-turn, obviously, is because it’s feeling the heat.

The one who is turning it on is Kapil.

“Look, I still maintain I don’t want to fight with anybody, but if somebody pushes me to the wall, then I’ll fight back… The BCCI can’t treat cricketers like slaves when, in fact, the cricketers ought to be running the sport… Forget that, the BCCI didn’t even have the time to have a dialogue with me… Shouldn’t somebody stand up to them'” he asked.

Kapil has.

IN AND AROUND The CITY…

Salt Lake Stadium

Barasat Stadium

Howrah Municipal Stadium

Rabindra Sarobar

Kishore Bharati Stadium

OUTSIDE THE CITY…

Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri

Kalyani Stadium

Manbhum Sports Association Stadium, Purulia

Durgachak Stadium, Haldia

Nehru Stadium, Durgapur

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