The popular “Air India ground” in Santacruz where some of Mumbai’s brightest young Team India players, such as Prithvi Shaw, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shivam Dubey, honed their skills may no longer be available to aspiring cricketers.
The facility is housed inside a sports complex owned by Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), which was taken over last year by Adani Airport Holdings Ltd (AAHL). On Wednesday, MIAL warned of “legal consequences” if there was any activity at the multi-discipline venue where close to 1,000 cricketers train at around 60 nets.
The nearest other cricket facility is the Cross Maidan in South Mumbai, at least 22 km away. The ground is also a favourite spot of neighbourhood walkers.
In a letter addressed to Air India regional director Ravi Bodhade, MIAL said: “Please note that land of sports complex has been demised by AAI to MIAL & we have taken over the possession of the same. No activity whatsoever is permitted to be undertaken on this land. Any force for attempt to use the land will lead to legal consequences as per rights of MIAL.”
The letter states that this communication is also marked to Deputy Commissioner of Police Zone VIII “as a precautionary measure to avoid any Law & Order situation”.
The MIAL spokesperson did not respond to text messages and calls from The Indian Express seeking comment on the company’s plans for the ground.
It’s the only cricket ground in the suburbs with a 70-yard boundary, and hosts regular games under floodlights in the evenings. It has been used for training by other Mumbai Ranji Trophy players, including Sachin Tendulkar’s son and former India u-19 player Arjun Tendulkar.
“The ground has been a pipeline for future cricketers. Players like Prithvi Shaw and Yashasvi Jaiswal have come from that ground. If that ground can’t hold any activity, that pipeline will stop,” former India opener Wasim Jaffer said.
“There are 62 nets sessions that run daily here. At the same time, this complex also has shooting, table tennis, tennis and badminton facilities. This ground connects people from the western and central suburbs,” said former Air India pace bowler Ashutosh Dubey.
“I have coaching centres at other places, too, but there are many whose lives are dependent on this ground. Many coaches earn from coaching here. It’s not only cricket but other sports too. It’s the only perfect ground in Mumbai’s suburbs,” said Jwala Singh, who runs MCC Cricket Academy at the ground where former Sri Lanka pacer Chaminda Vaas conducted a coaching clinic recently.
On Wednesday evening, several people gathered in protest as the complex was found locked, prompting the police to step in.
“We called the police. They wanted to see the order which states that the common public cannot use it. The ground is used by so many sportspersons for their fitness routines. Earlier too, GVK, which was managing the Mumbai airport, had tried to lock the ground but we protested and the matter was sorted out,” said Prakash Shetty, a local resident.