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MCC teams up with UK firm to build cricket communities in India

Scheme places cricket academies at heart of developments that include housing, shopping malls, hospitals and hotels

The seeds of India’s passion for cricket were planted by the first visit of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1926, when the team played first class games against sides as varied as the Bombay Presidency, the Parsees and the Muslims and Rangoon Gymkhana.

Eighty-five years later, a British company is teaming up with the MCC to bring another cricketing revolution to the subcontinent – by designing 12 communities based around cricket fields.

Cricket started to become a dominant social force in India after the national team’s surprise victory against a strong West Indies side in the 1983 World Cup final. The game’s popularity spread to smaller towns, and with the feats of world class players such as Sachin Tendulkar, cricket has become a national obsession. Games are played on every street corner and the sport has hundreds of millions of TV viewers. India’s subsequent triumphs – the World Cup victory in April being the latest – have turned the game into a huge enterprise, with financial spinoffs of all kinds.

Now the real estate development and investment company Anglo-Indian is finalising plans to use the MCC name and the game’s popularity to promote 12 residential projects centred on cricket academies modelled on the home of cricket – Lord’s.

“A fully-fledged cricket ground and an MCC indoor cricket academy, with its state-of-the-art training facilities available to the entire community, will be at the heart of every project,” said the Anglo-Indian chairman, Simon Reid. “In India, cricket is nothing short of a religion, and we visualise developing new communities at the edges of cities revolving around the extraordinary national devotion to the game.”

Reid founded Anglo-Indian in 2005, the year India opened up its real estate sector to direct foreign investment. In July this year a licence agreement with MCC Overseas Ltd was announced, giving Anglo-Indian the rights to the MCC brand in India. Later this year the firm is expected to announce its first residential cricket community project, most likely in Delhi’s booming satellite city of Gurgaon. A sister company has also acquired 550 acres for a cricket-centric integrated township near Pune.

“There can be no better synergy than between MCC and the heart of 21st-century India,” said Reid. “It will be a very strong operational partnership with MCC, with coaches from here going to India and local coaches coming for training here.”

But it’s not just the all-weather academy – with its Merlyn bowling machine, Supergrasse playing surface and Hawkeye video analysis system – that will be replicated for the benefit of families keen on producing future Tendulkars and Dhonis. The cricket field at the core of each residential project will also have a pavilion, a sports club with lodging, a Lord’s shop of cricket paraphernalia, and Lord’s Tavern-style restaurants.

The property boom accompanying India’s economic boom has produced several high-end “residential golf estates”. But cricket has many advantages over golf. It is immensely more popular, it attracts different social groups – and it requires less land.

Anglo-Indian’s residential cricket communities will need only 30 acres of land, compared with 150 acres for golf. Larger 100-acre-plus cricket townships are also planned, however, with hospitals, shopping malls, hotels and branches of famous UK schools. The properties would range from one-bedroom flats to five-bedroom villas, creating mixed communities of middle- and upper-class families. The MCC academies will have outreach programmes in nearby schools and colleges for the benefit of talented students.

“Our projects will be very much for the whole community, and not just for the elite or for professional cricketers,” said Reid.

Though Anglo-Indian’s plans have got scant media attention in India, cricket experts are excited.

“It sounds like an extremely well-conceived and promising project that combines the virtues of availability to the masses with access to the expertise of a highly respected club like the MCC, which has long been an icon for the cricketing world,” said the former Somerset and India batsman Abbas Ali Baig. “If it succeeds, it will encourage young talent, and it will provide a venue for the growth of cricket culture.”

All 12 projects will have Indian partners, who will provide the land and navigate through the thicket of regulatory approvals. Construction finance will be raised from banks and lending institutions. As for Anglo-Indian, said Reid, it will invest as much as 0m over the next five years.

The English village green is the inspiration behind Reid’s groundbreaking project. Instead of scones, however, the cricket will come with samosas. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds