Barabati Stadium remains the first crowdfunded stadium in India and the first match was played in 1982. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The name Barabati is a memorable name for most of Odisha's population. The 13th century fort, built by the Ganga Dynasty, has a moat, gate, temple and structures of a nine-storied palace. The Barabati fort area is now more synonymous with the Barabati cricket stadium which is the venue for the third and final ODI between India and the West Indies on Sunday. However, the location of the cricket stadium is one part of a fascinating story involving the sporting complex.
The Barabati stadium is a rare stadium in that it was built through one-rupee contributions made by the public through a lottery, named Barabati Raffle, by Bhairab Mohanty. The story of the lottery is filled with setbacks but initially it is overcome. In the late 60s and 70s, Raffles was banned by the Odisha government and it took plenty of pursuasion for the government to change their mind. After the government agreed, raising capital was the next big hurdle. However, the Odisha police came to the rescue and after hosting several wrestling and boxing competitions, the funds were raised.
Initially, the land that was given to the Orissa Olympic Association was 20 acres and was done to build a stadium. However, Rajib Biswal, president of the Odisha Cricket Association, told in an interview to the Ahmedabad Mirror in 2008, "Through the efforts of Bhairab Mohanty, Joe Hyde, Sailen Ray and Mihir Ku that the stadium, originaly meant for football and other sports came into being. Devoid of funds at that time, the Barabati lottery set the ball rolling for the stadium to be constructed." The lottery ran for 18 years. There were 37 draws. When the expenses were met, the surplus was diverted to construct the stadium. This is how India's first crowdfunded cricekt stadium came to light.
The one-rupee contributions by the public of Odisha into making the stadium is very much like how the making of the 1976 film Manthan came about. The film is inspired by the pioneering milk cooperative movement of Verghese Kurien (present day Amul) and it is notable for their beginning credit which mentions 5 lakh farmers of Saganwa present, "Manthan, The Churning". The story is that five lakh farmers donated two rupees to the making of the film and thus, it became the first crowdfunded film in India.
The first game at the Barabati stadium was played in 1982 and the first Test was played in 1985. The Test against Sri Lanka was won by an innings and 67 runs but the venue would not host a Test for another 10 years when the match against New Zealand was drawn in November 1995. However, the stadium has hosted plenty of ODIs. India has featured in 17 ODIs and has lost just three games. In fact, India has not lost in Cuttack in the last 16 years, making the Barabati, symbolically and literally their fortress.
With Odisha now becoming the Hockey capital of the country and with other sports finding decent infrastructure in the state, the history of the Barabati stadium is proof of how people's passion can be channeled in the right direction. One hopes that international games are hosted consistently in Odisha and fans get to see their favorite players in action a lot more.