A sprawling six-acre cricket stadium in Gelephu, the first of its kind, is in the offing for the country.
Located in Sarpang, the yet-to-be-completed new International Cricket Stadium will house six pitches and will be able to host 300 spectators at any given time.
Of the six acres, about four and a half acres will consist of the main playing arena. There will be six natural grass pitches, while the two artificial turf pitches will be developed as side practice nets.
The two-storied pavilion will include a 300-seat gallery, a VIP -gallery, two locker rooms, four official rooms, a cafeteria, an office, and dormitories to cater as a mini-hostel. The restrooms and main gate which are still under construction has been delayed by the COVID situation in the country. Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) has contributed funds for developing the gate, parking lot, and restrooms.
So far, BOC and the Government of India have extended monetary support towards the construction of the stadium.
According to Bhutan Cricket Council Board (BCCB) CEO, Damber S Gurung, the land for the stadium was allocated by Gelephu Thromde. “This will certainly benefit Gelephu, the economy of the district, and for the development of the sport,” said the CEO. He also added that they wanted Gelephu International Cricket Stadium to become a venue for international events in the future.
Once the stadium is built, the biggest challenge will be the maintenance of the ground. “It is always expensive to maintain a natural grass pitches,” said, Damber S Gurung.
The funds for the operations of the cricket stadium will depend on the crcket development of the sport in the country. “The International Cricket Council has a point system for allocating funds to cricket organizations,” the CEO said.
He added that their goal must be to increase the number of players and competitions among others. “So with the limited resources, we have to use them properly. Prioritizing development activities, infrastructure, player development and many other areas are important aspects of Bhutan Cricket,” he said.
For the moment, a cricket pitch in Thimphu serves as the lone arena because BCCB has no cricket pitches to run cricket programs in Thimphu. The Cricket Council is working on an agreement with Shooting Sports Association to share land at Rama Chiwog, Thimphu.
Dambser said the goal of both federations is to have a long-term development plan and turn Rama Land into a centre of excellence for both sports.
Despite challenges, the cricketing scenario in the country is changing positively, and the CEO of the council feels that the mentality of cricketers in the country is not inclined towards reaping monetary benefits.
However, he feels that a standard cricket field or stadium will allow generating revenue through international events, local rental fees, cricket tourism, franchise tournaments and other opportunities.
“If we are financially viable, we can expand the sport in more districts, develop facilities, provide enough equipment, and provide more jobs for coaches, players, umpires, scorers, administration and various departments,” Damber said.
The CEO of BCCB said he accompanied the national teams from U-15 to seniors and knows the mentality of our players. Without even having basic facilities, he said, they have won tournaments and matches against many countries which show that they are talented and ready to prove themselves.
“If we provide them with top coaches, facilities, equipment, and financial support, it will not take them long to win big tournaments. I do not think our players are about money right now,” Damber said, adding they love the game and need good facilities and international opportunities to show their talent.
He added that the demands right now on young cricketers are to work hard work and learn to sweat on the pitch as cricket has a big market in the world and especially in Asia.
In the last two years, Bhutan has participated in only one international tournament. This year, there are a couple of qualifying tournaments for the U-19 men and women and the T20i tournament for the seniors.
The council hopes to send the squads soon to compete in international tournaments. However, in the face of the pandemic, the national squads are not able to prepare for upcoming tournaments. Nonetheless, online training has been initiated for players to maintain their fitness.
The Cricket Council hopes to develop more playing fields as they avail funds to expand the sport in the country.