Host Panchkula looks to score big with Indian Cricket League
The New Delhi Jets coach watches his captain Marvan Atapattu, once a star for Sri Lanka, at the nets during the Indian Cricket League (ICL) tournament, an event and its players blacklisted by the sport’s governing body.
The game isn’t the cause of amusement. Of all things, Malhotra’s thinking of real estate.
“I’ve been told land prices around here have shot up 25%,” he says. “People thought ICL would be a flop. It’s a stupendous success.”
A top Panchkula government official can’t confirm the statistic, but proudly offers anecdotal evidence: The government rate for a 500 sq. yard plot is Rs35 lakh, while the market rate has soared to Rs1 crore.
District commissioner Rajender Kataria says that “one month ago, no one had heard of Panchkula”, whose population of 319,398 is merely three times a capacity crowd at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens stadium. “Now, we are on the international map.”
This young town, barely 18 years old and dwarfed by nearby Chandigarh, has pinned much of its future on the Zee TV-organized ICL. While many development projects were already planned—a seven-star hotel and an information technology park, for example—they have been given new life and possibility with the guarantee of steady traffic due to matches.
Globally, the introduction of a team, stadium or big event is a tried and tested way to spur local development. Consider Beijing’s efforts to spruce up for the 2008 Olympics, for example. And, of course, New Delhi has seen itself made over twice now owing to the 1982 Asian Games and the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games.
But those are already places on the map. For Panchkula—which relies on a combination of government jobs, agriculture and remittances from non-resident Indians to sustain itself—the league’s entrance is viewed as a way to reinvent itself as more than an extension of Chandigarh, independent India’s first planned city.
The Panchkula administration also hopes ICL can help erase some of its relegated status as a stopover between the hills of Shimla and the plains.
After the league was announced, Panchkula stepped forward as host, despite warnings from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that those supporting the competition would be banned from its play.
For example, coach Malhotra and Atapattu, along with more than 50 players, can no longer be associated with BCCI-sponsored cricket; BCCI plans its own Twenty20 league, the Indian Premier League.