When M.S. Dhoni drummed up the nagada during the launch of JSCA International Cricket Stadium Complex in Ranchi on Friday evening, it was only fitting. Both Jharkhand's tallest present-day icon and the state's biggest pitch for its big-league aspirations deserved to get heard, loud and clear.
The Rs 180-crore stadium sparkled under floodlights as Jharkhand's most famous son and Team India skipper said: "Now, wherever I go to play, when people ask where I come from, I don't have to say from Ranchi, which is close to steel city Jamshedpur or Calcutta. Ranchi will be right there on the international platform. All kudos to JSCA." Dhoni's words mark the end of an identity crisis and "a new dawn of cricketing history".
The stadium was unveiled by chief guest of the evening Governor Syed Ahmed along with former chief minister Arjun Munda, BCCI president N. Srinivasan and JSCA president Amitabh Choudhary.
The inauguration, on the eve of Ranchi's first international cricket match, wasn't a celebrity circus. But Dhoni, in scintillating form as he ran up on stage at folk artiste Nandlal Nayak's request, his wife Sakshi, as well as team mates Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma gave the occasion its star dust.
The programme started at 5.30 pm, over an hour late, a power gliding show by Captain S.P. Sinha keeping the 2,000-plus audience from becoming impatient. Welcoming ceremony over, a 12-minute high-energy dance drama 'Invoking the forests' conceptualised by Nayak with 120 nagadas beating gave the audience a taste of Jharkhand's primal energy.
Emcee of the evening, suave actor Kabir Bedi, narrated the story of the genesis of the Rs 180-crore stadium accompanied by an audio-visual display in deep baritone.
It was also Choudhary's moment as he is credited as being the prime architect of the stadium complex. "I want to thank JMM supremo Shibu Soren, current acting chief minister Arjun Munda, BCCI officials and all those who worked and cooperated with us to make this stadium a reality. I also hope that after the historic match tomorrow, this stadium will witness many great games in the days ahead. It is a new dawn in the state's cricketing history," he said.
He must have been gratified by Dhoni's praise for the structure. "My team mates gave it a thumbs up. A stadium is not just gauged by its seating capacity or facilities, but by other qualities also like how people-friendly, player-friendly it is. The stadium has all qualities," he said.
Munda's characteristic maroon bundi was missing as was his trademark charm. In a low voice, he said: "Now, I am an acting CM but I am not acting (by the end of programme, President's Rule had been imposed). I congratulate Choudhary from my core of my heart for single-handedly turning the wheels of fortune of cricket and Ranchi in totality."
BCCI president Srinivasan nodded in agreement and added that venues of recent ODIs at new stadiums such as Rajkot and Ranchi showed how "state associations are committed to cricket".
Governor Ahmed added: "Jharkhand has produced Dhoni and couple of other international players. The stadium is a proud moment for all and those who worked hard need to be appreciated."
The Rs 180-crore state-of-the-art stadium can seat between 39,000 and 40,000 viewers. Spectators can view the game without obstruction from any direction as galleries have no pillar or column.
The complex is structurally designed into eight parts - two pavilions (north and south), four wings or stands (A, B, C, D) and two hills (eastern between A and B wings and western between C and D).
Other designated spaces are premium level, corporate and hospitality boxes, corporate lounge and dressing room. The north pavilion sides have facilities for umpires, score-keepers, ICC match referee, match observer, as well as anti-corruption and anti-doping units.
On the eve of the third ODI in the five-match series between India and England, the first for Ranchi, the spanking-new stadium symbolised the best of the state ' what Jharkhand could achieve if it tried.
The evening also made news for those MIA. While bureaucrats and police officials had turned out in good numbers with families, the political class had collectively boycotted the programme, reportedly miffed over limited passes allotted to them.
There was another notable miss. Team Cook did not turn up. Maybe they are reserving all their energy for the big match on Saturday.
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