Till the other day, Venkatesh Babu Chinnappa, 41, was just another regular farmer, tending to 32 acres of agricultural land at Mahadevapura near Nelamangala that he inherited. But last year, everyone in the area sat up and took notice when a full-fledged cricket stadium came up on 10 acres of the property.
And now, it isn’t just the locals who are gaping in awe. Even English county team Leicestershire has been bowled over by its bouncy and seaming pitch — a rarity in India. More accolades are in store, with a team of experts from the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) likely to visit the stadium in July.
Giving up a dream
Getting this far has been a long slog. It had always been Chinnappa’s dream to make it big in the cricketing arena. "I played for my college team and local clubs. I used to travel 28 km from Mahadevapura to Bangalore every day to practise," he told Bangalore Mirror.
But his dream was shattered by the sudden demise of his father when he was 22 years old. The responsibility of supporting his family fell on the commerce graduate’s young shoulders. From 22 yards his concentration shifted to the 32 acres he inherited. The cricketer became a farmer, but the passion for cricket did not die.
“I was not satisfied despite the successful crops, the floriculture, forestry, vegetables and fruit orchards. In late 2010, I started playing cricket once again with local friends in our fields. The practice sessions made me realise the importance of grounds for good cricketers. I decided to build a full-fledged stadium and set aside 10 acres for it.”
A stadium such as his was what many business tycoons had promised, but Chinnappa alone delivered. “It cost me Rs 45 lakh to construct it,” he said.“Initially, we used it for our own purpose and to host tournaments in our circle.
I researched on the internet and consulted a Bangalore-based expert, Sriram, for technical guidance. The soil for preparing the pitch was brought in from a tank near Tumkur. The pitch has four different layers, and is compact and hard — hallmarks of a true pitch.”
The stadium is unlike any found in India. The ground is not boxed in by stands. It is more like the ones in the West Indies and New Zealand — no seating arrangements; viewers sit on the elevated lawn running around the stadium.
“By January this year, it was ready to host tournaments with a cricket pitch, 7 practice pitches, players' pavilion, swimming pool and other facilities,“Chinnappa said. His stadium, well connected as it is located 0.5 km from NH-4, has successfully hosted matches of prestigious tournaments like the Subbaiah Pillai trophy match between Kerala and Gujarat.
This apart, BCCI's under-19 and Karnataka's under-16 teams conduct practice matches here. The National Cricket Academy (NCA) too has chosen his stadium to train players. Recently, the Indian A team and women's team training and fitness camps were conducted here.
No profit, only service
Having set up a quality cricket stadium, who wouldn’t think of profits? Well, Chinnappa doesn’t. "I do not want any profit. My only objective is to produce some of the best cricketing talents from the state, especially from rural areas and give them a chance."
Chinnappa charges Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 per day for corporate firms and clubs to host any tournament. Recognised stadiums charge anywhere between Rs 75,000 and Rs 1 lakh per day.
Next month, a BCCI team will visit for inspection. "Its recognition would help in hosting several first class cricket matches," he said.