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A 12-year-old makes his first-class debut as two Bihar squads are named for Ranji game in crumbling stadium

Large crowds turned up at a dilapidated stadium in Patna with warning signs around safety put up by the organisers

Syed Hussain
Syed Hussain
Vaibhav Suryavanshi arrives with his kit, January 5, 2024

Vaibhav Suryavanshi is yet to turn 13 but is playing Ranji Trophy for Bihar  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The beginning of the 2023-24 Ranji Trophy brought crowds in big numbers to Patna's Moin-ul-Haq Stadium - a venue that hosted World Cup fixtures in 1996 - and hosts Bihar gave the people plenty of reasons to cheer. After all, Mumbai, the 41-time champions, had been reduced to 235 for 9 on the opening day of their Elite Group B fixture.
However, unknown to the crowd, a controversy was brewing on the sidelines. The Bihar Cricket Association (BCA) was in a tussle with its suspended former secretary Amit Kumar, who had named a squad of his own to take the field. Contrary to reports, though, the two teams had been named only on paper, and only the BCA's squad - the "official" team - took the field. At the gates outside the venue, though, chaos ensued, with a fuming Amit Kumar allegedly attacking an official.
"There was a life-threatening attack on BCA's OSD Manoj Kumar by those involved in the fake team," an official BCA release said on Friday afternoon. "The miscreants have been identified, and action will be taken against them."
Amit Kumar had once been part of BCA president Rakesh Tiwary's faction, which had contested and won the BCA elections prior to the association receiving BCCI's affiliate membership, and the team was allowed to contest in the senior domestic competitions ahead of the 2018-19 season.
At the time, the Committee of Administrators, which had been tasked to run the BCCI by the Supreme Court of India, had appointed an independent election observer in a three-member committee to conduct free and fair elections. Saba Karim, the former India wicketkeeper, too, had visited Patna to oversee the formalisation of the body in his capacity as BCCI's general manager of cricket operations.
But Amit Kumar's relationship with Tiwary is understood to have strained in 2022, when he was alleged to have been involved with one of the warring factions. When the matter was brought to the notice of the dispensation led by Tiwary, Amit Kumar was suspended. He hasn't held any position in the association since, by virtue of which teams he appoints on paper remain "null and void".

Vaibhav Suryavanshi debuts for Bihar aged 12

There was also a landmark when Bihar handed a first-class debut to Vaibhav Suryavanshi, aged just 12 years and 284 days. His official age, confirmed by the BCA, makes him the youngest Indian first-class debutant since 1986.
Suryavanshi, a left-hand batter, made 93 runs in five innings at the Vinoo Mankad Trophy for Bihar. That earned him a spot in the Under-19 Challenger Trophy as well as in the Under-19 Quadrangular, also involving Bangladesh and England, following which the junior selection panel named their India squad for the Under-19 World Cup to be held in South Africa later this month. He didn't figure in that.

Spectators warned at dilapidated stadium

On an eventful day for the BCA, it also had to also grapple with the lack of facilities to accommodate the large crowds that had presumably turned up to get a glimpse of Ajinkya Rahane, Mumbai's designated captain. However, Rahane was forced to miss the game after waking up with neck spasms. He walked around the boundary ropes to acknowledge the crowd.
The stadium is in a mess. So much so that the spectators who came in were walking past posters that warned them to enter at their own risk. ESPNcricinfo understands that the crumbly structure can't be tampered with, as the ground belongs to the municipal corporation and not the state association.
"Yes, the condition is bad but there is a plan to make this stadium world-class, and the tender for it has also been passed," Tiwary said by way of explanation. "It will be revamped very soon, [but] because the match was still to be played, we have somehow made it playable. We have full hope that soon this stadium will start shining like its old history."

Syed Hussain is a multimedia journalist at ESPNcricinfo Hindi @imsyedhussain