New Delhi: The first step was a Supreme Court panel recommending that all the northeastern states are entitled to full affiliation and voting rights in the Indian cricket board. Now, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, whose love for sports is not new, has unveiled plans for a stadium fashioned on Australia's MCG -- one of the world's largest -- as a precursor to producing world-class players.
"Just close to the football ground in Sairang, there is a cricket stadium coming up, which is the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) that can host 100,024 visitors," Lal Thanhawla, a five-time Chief Minister who had represented undivided Assam during his school and college days in both football and hockey, told IANS in an interview here.
Sairang is a 30-40 minute drive from state capital Aizawl.
The ultimate aim, Lal Thanhawla, 74, said, was to produce world-class cricketers, especially after his state along with the other northeast states, got the Supreme Court nod on the Justice R.M. Lodha panel's recommendations for full affiliation and voting rights.
"I have been fighting for full voting rights of Mizoram Cricket Association (MCA). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) never did that but I am very happy that the Lodha panel has directed that all the northeastern associations are given full affiliation," said Thanhawla, who is also the President of the MCA.
Till now, only Assam and Tripura were affiliated to the board and could field teams for the Ranji Trophy and other BCCI-sanctioned tournaments.
"Right from Sharad Pawar's time in the BCCI, when Arun Jaitley was the chairman of the affiliation board, I promised them that in five years I will produce world-class cricketers if given affiliation," he added.
The Chief Minister said he had approached Pawar, the then BCCI President, on many occasions but had to return empty-handed every time.
But Lal Thanhawla felt the change in the national body's constitution has given a new ray of hope to hundreds of talented cricketers who are ready to showcase their potenitial.
Lal Thanhawla reiterated his stance on producing top class cricketers from the region, who according to him are gifted with a "big heart" and "courageous mind".
"We can produce the best class cricketers in the country. Mizo boys are born with a great physique and in fielding we are very courageous. I have been to many local tournaments where I am impressed with the kind of talent we have."
Known for speaking his heart out, the veteran politician alleged that many India players are so affulent that they do not want to risk themselves in the field.
"Indian cricketers are too rich, some are so much that they do not even want to throw themselves in the field. They are afraid of injuring themselves. You got to have a courageous mind."
"If you want to succeed in any area, be it sports or anything in life, you must approach it with a big heart. Mizo boys are courageous enough; they are not afraid of getting injured while fielding."
Commenting on the growing menace of age fraud in various sporting disciplines, he said: "I have directed the sports bodies in my state not to try to cheat. That's something very mean and cheap. You won't attain anything big by cheating."