One can see truckloads of fresh mud being down loaded on the parched field of Maulana Azad Stadium to give it a new look . The sitting venues are beautified and fortified with grey marble. The main Pavilion has been designed for the Global reach.
MAM stadium which is being upgraded for International cricket standard under the Prime Minister’s development scheme is reaching its final stage. It is exciting for the sports community, sports lovers and people of Jammu. It is indeed a quantum leap.
One can visualize now with the new transforming Jammu, the frontiers expanding to so far as Samba, with a magnificent Highway and sprawling colonies mapping the landscape on either side .Stretching to Nagrota with the forest encircling , the new fly-over cum high-way is rapidly changing the geographical paradigm not to speak of the shrinking spaces along the route to Akhnoor in growing habitat . Jammu now almost a tipping Metropolis with the coming of AIIMS, Network of Highways, and importantly 5 -Stars are catching up, one can boast of having Infrastructure to start with. A glaring inadequacy which hindered the sports mega events.
The MAM Stadium which was established in 1966 has stood the test of time with historic cricketing events .The universal law of change is inevitable and the time has arrived for a shift. To the new comer, the adjacent glorious once, ”Prince of Wales”, still the old trees surviving [GGM Science college] , ushers a tranquil beauty .Old city which was the Inner hub has now spread to the outer edge of Jammu with fine coffee shops , brand show rooms , superb banquet halls , new colonies. The great moment has arrived. We are proudly and confidently ready for International cricketing teams coming to beautiful Jammu from across the globe.
For the Sports community of my peers, there is a treasure of memories .A matter of pride that my generation of sports community, which won great trophies , medals , acclaim , from diverse disciplines like table tennis , cricket, football , athletes ….had the common shared history of running and training hard on the field at MAM stadium . Memory rustles the heart and a bond so true. From NIS , National Institute of Sports, Patiala, professional coaches were designated to J&K for nurturing talent and providing technical training to the budding youth. This dates back as far as to the early 70s .Legend Coach S M Arif , name goes down in the hall of fame as he will be remembered for his contribution to raise the standards, of badminton to inter-national level .The architect of the rise of badminton touching dizzy heights to global challenge. In this very stadium on this ground, we the sports fraternity of a by-gone -era, would be seen hitting the ball with intensity, while hockey gusto players dribbling the ball. Every evening was a festival of sports at the stadium, bonhomie, and comradeship was at display during that time. We worked hard, hours and hours of dedication. Breaking the barriers, focused , technique , skill, timing , anticipation, execution, strategy to hit the opponent. It was more of a battle field. Sweat and toil for the battle.. Our inspiration was Muhammad Ali, the boxer as he was believed to be the greatest sportsman on the planet of the time and age. Rudy Hartono the flying machine who radically changed the badminton concept from being a feminine sports to one that of fancy long strokes, stylish drops, placing , badminton jargon to one of the most deadly and ferocious killer games. Our imagination was fired. Modesty not being my cup of tea in this case, I was the first player in J&K to play his technique, rise in the air, shoot and attack the Net. In the nostalgic impulse and flow, in the horizon one can see those amazing players who brought laurels and glory to the state. In front of our eyes a new stadium is emerging for the fortunate current generation. Now one who will cherish watching the game from the Gallery. The present generation should value this opportunity and seize the moment and struggle for the greater glory for the state. We played our part, our Innings done with . The amazing stadium of promise and high hopes as is on final stage offers new wings to fly to the young generation.
As the final brick will be laid, and who knows the mega event is worthy of a grand opening by none other than the Prime Minister . I also have this hunch that awareness about the beauty of sports will be like a prairie fire with the new Magnificent Stadium. Just look around to the ever so many gyms , sports activity .Not necessarily it is the young and energetic preparing for competitions but just for the sake of health and wellbeing. It is a common spectacle to see middle aged, older groups, having a joyful walk on the outer skirts of Jammu. To what was perceived as an ancient practice, something for the mysterious Yogis only, the awakening of Yoga is now common place in Jammu. It is a way of life . Add also in the same vein the phenomenon of Golf .Perceived once as being for the exclusive club , the idle rich , it has caught on with all and sundry.
Coming back to the new stadium for Jammu the concern is this asset of the International stadium not only deserves to be respected but the clinching point is its upkeep . I shudder to think when the fanfare and the ceremony is over it does not meet the same fate of negligence. We owe it, this much. Gratitude to the Prime Minister for his generosity and vision. A landmark for future. Youth and sports is great . The addiction to the game is a blessing than to the evil of addiction of drugs which has destroyed innocent lives. It is opening of a new chapter where youth will learn that vision and dreams can only happen with hardwork .
Sportsmanship is a badge of honor. Once a sportsman always a sportsman. To the young aspirant, it is important to realize that winning a trophy is worthy to strive for . But it is equally worthy to develop fine qualities of the spirit of sports like discipline, integrity , character, being truthful, absorbing victory and defeat with grace. We are entering an exciting phase for cricket in which we all will be keen to see some new heroes from our soil making us proud .
(The author is IGP (retd)