Nagpur: This story was pieced together by speaking to many persons closely associated with VCA and the building of the stadium who have been pained by Shashank and his son’s name being unnecessarily dragged in ‘baseless allegations’. This is an authoritative story on how the stadium was built and the high standards it adheres to.
It was way back in 2004 – 2005 that the notion of building a grand stadium in Nagpur which could hold Day and Night matches came to Shashank Manohar’s mind while driving to his farm off Amravati Road. As he passed the new University campus on that road he was impressed by how spacious it looked. There weren’t many dhabas along side the campus then and no apartment complexes at all. Just open plain land.
“This is the kind of land we require to build a dream stadium” thought Shashank.
Later when he kept looking for a large parcel of available land around Nagpur, no one realized he was serious about it – and it was not just idle conversation he had been indulging in to pass time on a long drive! (Shashank Manohar was then President of VCA).
Not just enough land was needed but it had to be proper too – by way of level and elevations. Not too far from a main road but not ON it also directly. It makes too much of traffic disturbance at the time of a match.
Finally, he came across this farm belonging to Mr. Patwardhan, which was for sale. It was prime property and had been on the market for some time. Mr. Patwardhan was a very upright and law abiding gentleman who wanted a purchaser who would pay 100% in white! This condition gladdened Shashank’s heart and he was convinced it was the right land for the stadium he had in mind.
The Vidarbha Cricket Association too does all deals in white. There would have been no scope for purchase on any other terms. “It is a good omen that we are getting such a land from such a person” said Shashank.
The land was bought for around Rs. 3 crores – which was bulk of funds available with VCA then. Where to get the funds to build a stadium – that too one of his vision? Dalmia was the President of BCCI then and Shashank was in the opposite camp. Yet BCCI kept allotting funds as per the norms meant for member Associations and the Jamtha stadium was built with a very tight reign on the purse strings.When the stadium and the club house were complete there weren’t much funds left to do up a grand interior or pay an Interior Designer so the shopping for curtain material and upholstery at the best and most economical price was done in house. For Art, Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya students were approached and art works they had done during their courses were bought from them .For many students this was the first sale! These paintings are still hanging on the walls at the VCA Clubhouse.
( It indeed would not be an exaggeration to say that the Jamtha club house is more tastefully done up than any lobby of any five star hotel around Nagpur. The last time we went there for dinner, the front lobby had a heavenly aromatic fragrance to it… we realized there were hundreds of ‘Mogra’ flowers laid around in earthern tubs. Lots and lots of mogra bushes are grown all around the lawn perimeter which were profusely flowering then so the same fragrance could be enjoyed on the lawns too! NT)
People find it impossible to believe but this stadium and the club house were built (with an international standard swimming pool )at a total cost of just Rs. 75 to Rs 80 crores! Smaller stadiums have been built with much bigger budgets all over the country!
Arguably, VCA is the cleanest and best run Associations of all – and for a leading newspaper to accuse it of being ‘illegal’ and built without permissions was shocking! Responsible journalism requires in depth verification before printing something that might be termed defamatory and false. Even if it comes from the source of an RTI activist, both sides should be given a chance to speak, say cricket fans of Nagpur.
The Editor of the concerned newspaper visited Shashank and was invited to view all the permissions the paper had said were not with VCA. The Editor said a person who would understand the legalities would look at the files so Shashank went to the VCA office himself after a long gap to show them. He has not gone there since he stepped down as VCA President but he said for this he will go as his integrity is being questioned. Every official permission requested for was shown to them.
Not only is the Jamtha stadium built economically adhering to all legalities and norms, it is one of the Best! When the inspection team for World Cup matches came to inspect Nagpur stadium they commented later to Shashank ( who is ICC Chairman too now) that it was difficult to find many stadiums that matched Nagpur’s.
Till the Stadium was built , the VCA Executive had been on tenterhooks as finances were a big bottle neck. If we do not manage to get adequate funds to build it and have to abort the project half way, how do we return money obtained from BCCI ? That was a big issue.
Shashank is known to be a very transparent and honest person. There is no hanky panky in any of his dealings opine his lawyer friends and VCA colleagues. He began playing cricket at a very young age – and has done everything that is associated with the game. He has been a groundsman and also an umpire. He was part of the under 22 State team but then in 1979 he got his Law Degree and also got married and the family elders said ‘enough cricket! Now put your head down and work. Put your career first, you have a family now’
Shashank studied in Somalwar High school and also insisted on his son going to the same school as according to him-“This school teaches you culture and values.” If he had his way he would send his grand daughter to the same school
The family is reclusive to say the least. And that is the way they like it.
… Sunita Mudaliar, Associate Editor, Nagpur Today