Welcome to India's new game hot spot

Lucky is sporting Ranchi's new sobriquet.

A world-class cricket complex that helped Team India break its more than two-decade-long ODI jinx against England and an astroturf stadium that scripted home history in the opening edition of Hockey India League (HIL) have ensconced the state capital on the map of international sports.

And, if Jharkhand's sports mandarins are to be trusted, more action is on the anvil.

"Our concerted efforts over the past year to host HIL matches paid off in a way much more than we expected. Players from across the globe played in Ranchi and appreciated its sporting facilities. To top it all, the Rhinos won the trophy, putting Ranchi firmly on the radar for future sporting events," said Savitry Purty, the secretary general of Jharkhand Hockey Association.

The astroturf stadium at Morabadi had made its debut on January 18, while the JSCA International Stadium Complex in Dhurwa saw a gala opening on January 19.

In the run-up to the ODI, none other than International Cricket Committee (ICC) match referee David Boon had blessed the Dhurwa complex. On the other hand, Olympic gold winner and Rhinos captain Moritz F�rste said he "felt at home" playing in Ranchi.

"So many people came and told me that the city has earned an identity because we players from Europe, South Africa and Australia have come here to play. The craze for hockey in Ranchi equals to that in many European cities," the German ace said on Monday, a day after his team's emphatic 2-1 win over HIL table toppers Delhi Waveriders.

Not just F�rste, many international players have promised to return here for the second edition of HIL. Since the Rhinos are champions, the next HIL final will be held in Ranchi.

"Besides the HIL second edition, we wish to host at least two matches of the Indian-Pakistan Test series, which is scheduled next month. We will keep trying to get more national and international hockey matches to town," Purty said.

Talks are also on with Hockey India to grant Ranchi the Olympic qualifier (for the Indian team) scheduled in December this year.

However, there are glitches to be overcome if one nurtures such ambitions.

Sources said the biggest impediment for a national event was the small size of the Morabadi stadium. Currently, the total capacity is only 5,500 though the state sports department has promised to raise additional galleries.

Dhurwa is a tad luckier, with the Celebrity Cricket League already scheduled at the complex on February 24. The stadium will also get to host two IPL matches on May 12 and May 14.

Back-to-back sporting extravaganzas have made the hospitality sector boom too.

"Cricket and hockey matches over the last few days have given us great business. More such events will indeed be welcome because people from across the country and globe will come to the city," said Ravinder Singh, a senior functionary of the Capitol Group of Hotels in the city.

Dillip Gupta, the owner of Radisson Blu, agreed. "International players and officials have seen what Ranchi has to offer. They will not hesitate to host big sporting events here any longer," he added.

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