Once a mecca of budding Mumbai cricketers, the venue has been reduced to zero, as all the cricket matches that were to be held at this iconic venue, the Azad maidan, for more than hundred years have been completely stalled due to the Nagpur Mela.
The South Central Zone Cultural Centre (SCZCC) is hosting its flagship event, Orange City Craft Mela and Folk Dance festival which will go on till February 19.
The preparation for the event began on last week of January and the festival was inaugurated on Feb 9.
15 pitches dug up by MMRDA for Metro station
This is after the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) stole over 15 pitches while setting up a 22 meter deep underground Metro station for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro line, in the year 2014.
“This is agonising, children especially those coming from Central Mumbai are left to find their own place to play after MMRD erased 15 pitches. Now the Nagpur social festival has completely taken over the land which has been the nursery of Mumbai cricket,” said Nadim Menon, secretary of the Mumbai Schools Sports Association.
'This is not the place to hold Nagpur Mela'
“We are proud that such an event (Nagpur Mela) is being held in the city but this is not the place. Other venues such as the BKC or any gymkhana would have loved to host them,” stated Menon who organises the inter-school Harris and Giles shield, which has seen many Mumbai cricketers taking to this championship before they are groomed into world famous cricketers. Cricket 'God' Sachin Tendulkar is one such player.
“I come from Ghatkopar and CST is the closest station, but since we cannot play cricket here I will have to walk down to Oval Maidan,” said 14-year-old Sachin Kamble who is accompanied by his parents.
Only 7 pitches left at Azad Maidan
Mumbai cricket operates 22 pitches here and 15 such wickets were taken over by MMRDA the remaining seven have now been taken over by this Mela.
These wickets (pitches) have been holding tournaments and league matches for hundreds of years, and all the clubs associated here are forced to move out and find their own place to play.
The legend of Azad Maidan
The largest maidans of south Mumbai, namely Azad, Oval and Cross, were once a part of a single stretch of open space called the Esplanade in the mid-1800s, “Stretching from Lohar Chawl (present day Crawford Market) to beyond Cooperage,” according to the late historian Sharada Dwivedi’s book Bombay.
There have been infighting as to who owns these maidans.
The state sports department had written to the Maharashtra government seeking the transfer of ownership of Mumbai’s iconic grounds Azad Maidan, Oval Maidan and Cross Maidan to it.
At present, the ownership of these three maidans rests with the public works department (PWD).
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