West India A in India 2013-14 October 8, 2013

From 'toilet block' to cricket field

How the KSCA Stadium in Hubli came to be through one man learning about outfields and pitches on Google, and another man implementing the what was learnt to transform a slope near a railway track into an even playing field

As with most achievements in India, the picturesque Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) Stadium in Hubli is more a product of individual enterprise and ingenuity than the system running behind it. This story of the stadium, which will host the final game of three-match unofficial Test series between India and West Indies' A teams, is mostly about one man learning about outfields and pitches on Google, and another man implementing the what was learnt to convert a "toilet block" on a slope near a railway track into an even and big playing field with a hill on one side and a bit of a valley on the other.

Shivanand Gunjal is a paralympian, a former Karnataka Universities cricketer, a civil contractor, and most importantly the curator and the maintenance man at the stadium. He was 13 when he dived badly on his right elbow and lost all the strength in his right arm. It doesn't swing fast now. He kept keeping wicket, just that the first slip has to stand closer than usual. In 1996, he represented India in the Atlanta Paralympics. He came back and kept playing club-level cricket in Hubli.

The owner of his club, Baba Bhusad, is now the Dharwad Zone convenor for KSCA, which has of late shown keen interesting in taking first-class cricket to remote venues in the state. When Bhusad and Gunjal began to work on this land, they were ridiculed.

"Around 2003-04, we zeroed in on this land," says Gunjal. "The place was a toilet block next to the railway track. People laughed at us.

"We had no background in making pitches and growing grass. I was an engineering-diploma holder. We used to go with the convenor to the horticulture department. We learned things there. Before that we couldn't tell between Bermuda grass and Mexican grass. Our convenor used to search for things on Google, and used to ask me to work on them."

The first challenge was to level the playing field. They dug up one half and used that sand to fill up the other. Then they began to test various soils. "We used to sit in a truck with empty bottles and fill them up with various kinds of soil," Gunjal says. "We went all the way till the Goa border and also in north Karnataka. We used to add dry soil to clean water and test it. If we thought it would be good, we used to send it to the laboratory to know the exact soil content."

The ingenuity worked the best here. They knew that the soil used for the Ganpati statues had a good clay content so they went to the labourers and the vendors who sold the statues to ask them where they got the soil from. With a general idea in mind, they brought many samples and sent to laboratories the ones they liked. Finally they decided on the soil from a dense jungle 30km from Hubli, in Kalghatgi. The soil had more than 50% clay, not quite living up to the standard-bearer they had found on the internet: Perth's WACA Ground, with more than 70% clay.

They had always had the permission from the KSCA to go ahead and work on the ground, but not much knowhow. Now the KSCA is supportive too. Narayan Raju, the chief groundsman at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, got Gunjal enrolled for a curators' seminar at the Wankhede Stadium. After a high-scoring match last year - when Amit Mishra scored a double-century - Gunjal has now turned out a green strip. Leading up to the match, it does look a green top, and the trailing home side doesn't really have many reasons to ask for the grass to be shaved off.

This has been quite a turn for a paralympian and a civil contractor who never even dreamt of making pitches, but not quite as dramatic as the one for the "toilet block".

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on October 10, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    Nice story. Hope his achievements spur more curators on preparing grounds. Congrats to all in this team who created a good cricket ground and pitch. Keep up the good work it only helps Indian cricket.

  • sabarinath on October 9, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    great suggestion by @mjrvasu..

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    I am from Hubli-Dharwad (twin cities) and seen this ground since very long time. Lot of effort has been put up to develop this ground. This ground looks amazing from the "Betta" (a mountain near by).

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    First of all, great story! But it would be really good if they can post a few more pictures of the ground when such stories reported.

  • Ramakrishnan on October 9, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    Cricket is an unpredictable game played sometimes on pitches made by 50% soil and 50% love,commitment,affection to the game by people like Mr.Gunjal. What is predictable is the game is enriched in Karnataka and will give future generations of Vishwanaths,Kumbles,Prasads,Srinaths,Dravids,Binnys from the hinterlands. THANK YOU Mr.GUNJAL FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE GAME.

  • Gopalakrishna on October 8, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Cricketmaan - Let us not forget Brijesh Patel and his team for spotting this ground. HRG - Bangalore

  • Sriram on October 8, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    On the positive side, its good that BCCI recognized the hardwork and alloted a game which will include Zak, Viru and Gauti. But it would not have happened without Kumble, Javagal and Dravid in KSCA.

  • pushkar on October 8, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    What a man. It shows his pure love for the game and his desire to have a national level stadium in this small town. The fact that Mr.Gunjal and his convenor went to great lengths to get the soil, prepare the ground, maintain it, without any monetary support is commendable. Hope efforts like this encourage more kids o take up the sport seriously and make cricket a viable profession in small towns. Take a bow Mr.Gunjal.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    hard work always pays off. here i also like to thank the support given by KSCA.