"CSK can come and play but we cannot accommodate the fans," says TDCA vice-president S Shanmugam
From being a city that is not known for producing too many crickets to being one that is in the conversation for hosting an IPL match in the future, Tirunelveli has come a long way in the last few years and that is thanks largely to the Tamil Nadu Premier League.
The Indian Cements Ground in Sankar Nagar, Tirunelveli has undergone a sea change in the amount of action that it has seen since the start of the TNPL. Although it has previously hosted Ranji Trophy matches, it is thanks to the TNPL and the fact that the games are being broadcast worldwide that Tirunelveli is now on the cricket map.
Sportskeeda caught up with Tirunelveli District Cricket Association vice president S Shanmugam to talk about how TNPL has changed the perception of cricket in Tirunelveli, the prospect of one day hosting a Chennai Super Kings game and what the future holds for cricket in Tirunelveli.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Cricket hasn't always been the first sport in Tirunelveli, can you tell me a little bit about the history of cricket here?
Right from the beginning, India Cements has been promoting cricket in and around Tirunelveli. That is why this stadium was established about 40 years back. We (Tirunelveli) have produced some good players but other games like hockey, volleyball were very familiar in south. Now, cricket is also picking up here. Many villagers also have teams. That shows that the people are interested to play cricket and they are enthusiastically coming forward.
How did Tirunelveli get a chance to host TNPL matches?
Even though this stadium has been used in the Ranji Trophy, it is only thanks to our management that we were given an opportunity to host the tournament and also improve the facilities at the ground to be on par with any IPL stadium. That has only made this stadium popular. Even though it is 40 years old, because of the TNPL, these types of facilities has been created and improved.
Having an avenue such as the TNPL, which could prove to be a gateway to the Tamil Nadu and the Indian side, is something that wasn't there before. How has that impacted those who want to take up cricket in Tirunelveli?
This is a very big avenue for them and the facilities are open to all. We have selection trials at the ground, where players are picked on merit and skill. It is then up to the players to make use of them. With Star broadcasting the matches all over the world, people are now aware that TNPL matches are promoting cricket everywhere, even rural areas. Those who are playing as well, they have exhibited their talent, equal to the IPL players. By seeing all this, it is a motivation for others to come and join and take part in the cricket.
With Chennai Super Kings back in the IPL, how highly do you rate Tirunelveli's chances of hosting a game?
Chennai Super Kings can come and play but we cannot accommodate the fans. That is the only limitation. Another issue is that there is no further space available to enlarge the capacity of the ground. It is very close to the town and the highways is immediately adjacent to the stadium. While we can increase the capacity by another thousand or two, when CSK comes, it is very difficult to accommodate all the fans.
What about the prospect of a CSK training session?
Even if one CSK player comes here, it is very difficult to face the situation. Because the fans are so enthusiastic and we cannot control the things but we are equipped to face such a challenge but not continuously for a long period of time. Whenever we get a chance, we welcome that situation because it is also an opportunity for us to further improve the facilities.
What about hosting other big matches or domestic events like the Duleep Trophy?
We are not short on facilities and when we are conducting Ranji Trophy, any other tournament we can easily conduct. Because earlier, connectivity to Tirunelveli was limited, now Tuticorin airport has been extended and there are more flights, which makes it easier for the players and teams to come here.
Any other reason you think that Tirunelveli can grow into a destination that attracts more cricket players and teams?
Tirunelveli, though it is down south, very close to that is Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram, so the people would definitely like to come and play here. It is a very important place and when such a situation comes, we welcome that and it will be a great privilege for Tirunelveli District Cricket Association and India Cements as well.
For more details, log on to www.tnca.in