I always wanted to construct something different - Anurag Thakur

The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamshala is easily amongst the most beautiful cricket stadiums in the world. The snow capped peaks of the Dhauladhar mountain range has added new dimensions to the stadium. The brainchild, Anurag Thakur, who at 39, is still working hard to keep up the HPCA popularity going. In this chat with Cricket Today, he reflects on the journey that has helped him in fulfilling his dream project and much more. Excerpts:

The HPCA stadium in Dharamshala has received good reviews from players across the globe. How much satisfied are you?

We started work way back in 2002 when there was a 70-foot hillock. There were no facilities and people used to laugh at me when I spoke about constructing an international stadium here. However, after a lot of hard work and ofcourse unlimited sacrifices, we have finally constructed one of the most beautiful stadiums across the globe. This is indeed very satisfying as players from different nations have given their thumbs up to our project and they are always willing to play here. Many international cricketers have shown interest in owning a house in Dharamshala just because of the stadium. Apart from this, the nature of the wicket would also help the Indian team in their preparation for the overseas assignments.

How did the idea of building an international stadium come to your mind?

I have been to all the stadiums in the country and have found them to be the same in most of the aspects. I always wanted to construct something different with world class facilities and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamshala is exactly that. Also, in my opinion, for high altitude training for the ideal physical fitness, this is the right place for the cricketers.

What were the challenges you faced in constructing the stadium in the hills?

With just Rs 50 lakh in our bank account, I was dreaming of a project which would cost around Rs 52 crore. The plan was not taken seriously at all but the determination, will and dedication of my team persuaded me to follow my dream and finally the result is in front of everyone.

IPL matches started here in 2010 and it almost took 3 years for the first international match to take place in 2013. And in four years just the second? The match rate is quite slow. What is your say?

I think our rate is quite fast as far as organizing an international match is concerned. The matches are allotted on a rotational basis in our country. There are stadiums which are in the waiting list since long so we consider ourselves lucky getting another game in just over a year’s time.

When do you expect to host the biggest format of the game.... the Test match.

For me Test cricket is the highest form of cricket. The shorter formats of the game may entertain people but as a cricket administrator, I am craving to host a Test match. The kind of response which we have got from the players and the officials is enough to keep me positive about the prospect of a five day game. We are, slowly and gradually, moving in the right direction and one day, the whole world would witness a Test match being played here. The spectators would love to watch a five day game at Dharamshala because of its pleasant weather. From a players’ point of view, the wicket has something in store for everyone. The bounce factor would keep the bowlers interested while the batsmen have a chance of scoring brisk runs since the ball naturally comes at a good height.

After Dhoni, many new faces from small towns have represented India at the highest level. The last being Parvez Rasool from J&K. When can we see someone from Himachal playing for India?

I am very optimistic but players from my state need to consistency prove their worth in front of the selectors. Rishi Dhawan is one lad who has performed exceptionally well in the domestic circuit and also for Kings XI Punjab during the Indian Premier League. Paras Dogra and Ankush Bains are the other two players who have made their performance count in the domestic matches.

Your recently spoke about India’s poor performance overseas. What do you think needs to be done in this regard?

We have performed on the dotted lines in the past. There is a requirement of better planning. A need of analyzing the conditions overseas and to prepare accordingly. If the right emphasis is laid in this direction, we would see more wins outside the sub-continent.

Are there any chances of Pakistan playing in India in the near future?

It totally depends on Pakistan whether they want to go ahead with the sporting relations or not. They will have to stop unprovoked firing and cross border terrorism for cricket to go on.

How do you look at team India’s chances in the coming world cup?

The current Indian team has got good players but the selectors will have to look at those too, who have performed exceptionally well in Australia and New Zealand in the past. Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir are no more part of the Indian set-up but they have got tons of experience with them and if they are able to perform in the domestic season, they deserve to be considered for the World Cup. Indian team has played well whenever there has been a right mix of the young blood and years of experience.

How do you balance yourself between politics and other responsibilities in other sports?

The interest in any field is a key to success. My involvement in sports is what eases me off from the grueling pressures of politics. Also, technology and the team structure have helped me in keeping a fine check between my sporting responsibilities and politics.

What got you interested in sports?

I have captained Punjab in the Under 16 and Under 19 categories during my cricketing career. However, due to some unavoidable family circumstances, I had to leave my favorite game. The will to do something for the sport was always alive inside me and this made me the President of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association at the age of 25 in 2000.

What continues to give you energy and enthusiasm after all these years of success?

I believe in setting up a goal after achieving the first one. The construction of the stadium at Dharamshala was the first step and we have built many more such cricket centres in other districts as well. I am looking forward to provide more facilities to the upcoming youth of our state.

How has your work influenced your lifestyle?

Discipline, hard work and team management are the three basic principles which one can learn from any sport. My life as a cricket administrator and politician has helped me grow as a person.

What are your leisure pastimes?

I hardly get any free time these days but I prefer to sleep whenever there is nothing to do.

Who’s your all-time favorite sports person?

First it was Kapil Dev then I started following Sachin Tendulkar and now I am a diehard fan of MS Dhoni. The time span has seen a lot of changes in my liking for a cricketer.

What do you like most about cricket as a sport?

India has produced lot of champion cricketers and this could be one of the reasons. Also, the triumph in the 1983 cricket World Cup brought me closer to this game. Cricket was always promoted during my schooling days, which played an important role in framing my desire to take up cricket as a career option in the beginning.

Your fitness mantra?

Eat healthy and stay fit.

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