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Game plan gaffes
League hawk spots hockey turf flaw

Hockey India League competition director Todd Faulds inspects the Astroturf stadium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh

Black patches on green turf are making Hockey India League (HIL) officials see red.

With less than two months left for one of the elite sport tourneys in Ranchi, poor upkeep of the Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi has become a major concern for organisers.

HIL competition director Todd Faulds, who did a recce of the stadium on Tuesday, avoided being harshly critical. but said he hoped that the authorities would fix the glitches before the league.

“There are black spots on the ground, which could have been averted with regular cleaning. But, I see few people cleaning the stadium today. I am a bit concerned because this is an event of international stature, which demands that the ground be state-of-the-art. Let’s hope it won’t be a major issue during the tournament,” he told The Telegraph.

Hailing from Australia, Faulds — a former player himself — has mentored numerous club teams for more than nine years.

He has also worked as competition manager for the men’s FIH Champions Trophy 2012 in Melbourne and International Super Series 2012 in Perth, and was involved with the Australian Youth Olympics Festival this year as director. In July, Hockey India roped him in for HIL 2.

The league scheduled from January 25 will have six teams with Kalinga Lancers being the new addition. The others are Delhi Waveriders, Punjab Warriors, Mumbai Magicians, UP Wizards and last year’s champions Ranchi Rhinos.

Before coming to Ranchi, Faulds had been to the three other venues at Mohali, Delhi and Lucknow for similar inspections. Comparing his experiences, the competition director said that the best thing about the capital stadium was its layout.

“It looks cosy and compact. In Delhi, the galleries are so big that at times it is difficult for the audience to get a closer view. Out here, each and every spectator will be seated close to the playing arena and cherish interrupted view of the game,” he said.

And quickly added: “Honestly, I wish I too could play here as I am told and I have read that the audience turnout is huge, which is a great sign.”

Besides the synthetic turf, Faulds is also learnt to have taken stock of other facilities such as seating arrangements, accommodations for VIPs and guests, local travel, et al. Otherwise “content”, his only word of advice for local hockey officials was to ensure cleanliness.

Incidentally, areas in and around the stadium were littered with garbage even until Monday. “Face-saver cleaning was done on a war footing ahead of the high-profile visit, but there are glitches that need to be rectified,” admitted an official.

Hockey Jharkhand general secretary Savitry Purty claimed that she had already requested the sports department to take necessary action in the matter. “Tomorrow (Wednesday), we will once again bring state officials here and show them the grey areas that need addressing,” she said.

Another official rued that even after the HIL management had paid the sports department Rs 5.80 lakh as the mandatory fee, the latter did precious little to fix flaws.

“The pavements are covered with moss, there is no proper ground cleaning machine and sprinklers aren’t fully functional. The department pocketed the rent, but hasn’t been active. We had demanded additional toilets, but no heed was paid,” he said.

Sports director Dadan Choubey promised that things would be in order before the hockey league.

“The stadium will be thoroughly cleaned before the event begins in January next year. I have already directed Sports Authority of Jharkhand to start the job and furnish a detailed compliance report within two-three days. As for new toilets, setting them up takes time and it may not be possible before the league. The department will surely think of it later,” he said.

(Inputs from Santosh K. Kiro)