GUJRAT: To meet the acute shortage of playgrounds for the youth in Gujrat, the local cricketers have developed a cricket field on the self-help basis after a landlord spared a piece of land for the purpose on the city outskirts.

The Hayat Cricket Ground in Phulerwaan area along Northern Ring Road attracts the motorists and passers-by due to its landscape, floodlights, spectators stand, mini-huts and swings for children.

The cricket field often remains busy in hosting matches from the teams across the district even on the week days, highlighting the unavailability of such grounds in the city. Previously, the teams would play matches only from Friday to Sunday.

Akhtar Awais, who manages the Hayat Cricket Ground, says Chaudhry Abdul Khaliq had dedicated three acres of land for the cricket field at the bank of Bhimbher storm water channel near Rehmani Bridge a couple of years ago and he also provided funding to convert the land into a cricket ground.

The field, Awais tells Dawn, was named after the late father of Khaliq and a turf pitch of international standards has been laid whereas the boundary lengths have also been of international standards with 72 meters from front and 65 meters on leg and off sides. Proper sight screens have also been installed.

He says that the ground has been approved by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and it was the home ground of Nazim Cricket Club whereas the other clubs can also hire field for just Rs2,000, charged only to meet the maintenance cost.

Currently, matches of the Hayat Memorial Cricket League are being organised between 40 clubs of the district, including 22 registered ones and 18 that were allowed special entry since last September. The final will be held in February.

On the other hand, the Zahoor Elahi Cricket Stadium has been closed for the matches since the spread of the Covid-19 whereas the grounds of Zamindar College, Science College, Swedish College, Comprehensive School and few other fields, which have been the centres of sports activities in the city for the last many decades, are also unavailable for the players due to the lockdown.

The local administration had developed a cricket ground on the rear side of the Shahbaz Sharif Park in 2015-16 where some cricket tournaments were also organised. The ground has also been shut since long.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had dissolved all the cricket bodies at the district level across the country in August 2019 and since then, there was no organisation to represent the local cricketers to highlight their issues, says a former official of the district cricket association in Gujrat.

He says the local cricket clubs had constituted a four-member committee, comprising Javed Ijaz Butt, Akhtar Awais, Khalid Butt and Asim Maqsood, to look after cricket activities. The committee had called on Deputy Commissioner Saif Anwar and demanded the opening of a cricket stadium for the players.

The situation for sports in Gujrat other than cricket, like football and hockey, is not encouraging as due to the shortage of playgrounds, sports activities for the youth are diminishing.

The local sportsmen say the youth have played a vital role in bringing the PTI into power but it is disappointing to see a government led by a sportsman not providing to them with sports facilities. They have demanded the government provide them with enough facilities for sports.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2021

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