HYDERABAD: The abrupt landing of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah’s helicopter in the middle of an under-19 cricket match at the historic Niaz Stadium yet again highlighted poor management and the high-handedness of the local administration here on Friday .
The CM’s helicopter, which landed in the outfield, led to suspension of the match for almost two and a half hours due on the first day of the PCB inter-regional U-19 cricket tournament between Hyderabad and Quetta.
This is the second time that a cricket match has been disrupted like this to facilitate a dignitary at the Niaz Stadium.
Earlier, in 1998, IGP Sindh Rana Maqbool’s helicopter had also landed at the stadium’s outfield which had spoiled the proceedings for quite sometime.
On Friday, the players were suddenly stopped from entering the outfield in the post lunch session and were informed that the CM chopper will be landing soon. “Things were normal normal until lunch but at 1.00pm, the players were restrained from entering the ground after the administration officials told them that the helipad is to be prepared on emergency basis for landing of the CM’s helicopter,” said one of the players participating in the match.
It is a sorry sight to see the helipad being prepared in the stadium’s outfield which was recently rehabilitated by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Whais really surprising is the fact that that the local administration officials chose Niaz Stadium to be used as the helipad on Friday since Hyderabad Sports Club - which is Sindh government’s property - and the Wapda Ground also exist in the same vicinity in a radius of few meters where the CM’s chopper could easily have landed.
Proceedings of Friday’s match were suspended at 2.00pm as officials marked space for the helipad, while the police mobiles and some administration cars also entered the ground and remained parked at the boundary line.
At around 2.45pm the officials allowed the team management to resume play citing a delay in CM’s arrival. Play was resumed at 2.55pm only to be abandoned at 3.12pm. The match restarted at 4.40pm after the CM finally left the premises. The match then went on till 5.30pm as 30 additional minutes were allowed to the teams by the umpires.
However, only 63 of the allotted 90 mandatory overs could be bowled.
CM Shah met Hyderabad U-19 skipper Danyal Rajput and shook hands with other players and told journalists that government is committed to promotion of sports activities and he is keenly working to provide opportunities to youth for sports.
Former PCB’s Hyderabad Region President, Mir Haider Talpur, criticized the landing, saying th stadium is a national asset that need to be preserved rather than getting ruined like this. “There are other spaces which can be used for helipad,” he argued and added that PCB had spent lot of money to bring the outfield to its original shape which must be saved now.
Niaz Stadium was handed over to PCB in 2006 by then district government. Defunct Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) being custodian of the ground failed to maintain the stadium properly due to inadequate funds. During this period, the stadium was used for hosting Sindh Games, for weddings and for helipad purposes.
It may be mentioned that the PCB obtained the stadium under an MoU signed with then district government led by Kanwar Naveed. Ever-since PCB got its administrative control it at least maintained its outfield which was in pretty bad shape previously. The stadium last hosted an ODI between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Feb 2008.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2015