Tracing the origin of India's iconic stadiums
India is a country with a profound diversity. The profusely rich culture and the manifolds of language only add more vibrancy to the already intriguing heritage. Much like her culture, India’s cricket grounds are also drenched in opulent heritage and flamboyant culture.Cricket stadiums were started to be built in India starting from the 19th century and the country now boards many of the world’s most iconic stadiums. With stadiums all over India, each with its own intriguing history and heritage, here I try to trace back the genesis of 5 of the most iconic stadiums in India.
#5 Mumbai Wankhede Cricket Stadium
Wankhede is Mumbai’s premier cricket venue with a capacity of around 33,000. The ground has the privilege of having hosted a world cup final. But its genesis has been drenched in rivalries and disputes.
Mumbai is a home to 3 cricket stadiums. The Bombay Gymkhana was the first ground to host a Test match in India. But ever since the end of the Second World War, the Brabourne stadium, which is owned by the Cricket Club of India supplanted it and hosted 17 Tests.
However, disputes arose over allocation of tickets for cricket matches between Cricket Club of India and Mumbai Cricket Association. Things escalated after the Test between England and India in 1973. As a response, the Mumbai Cricket Association at the behest of S.K. Wankhede, the then secretary of it built a new stadium in South Mumbai near the Churchgate station. The expedited process resulted in the stadium becoming complete within 6 months.
The newly built Wankhede stadium hosted its first Test in 1975, when the West Indies took on India. Since then, it has been Mumbai’s first choice stadium.
The need for a revamp was realized when the stadium was earmarked to host the 2011 World Cup final. Reputed architects M/s. Shashi Prabhu and associates and M/s. P.K.Das and Associates were shortlisted by the managing committee to put down a plan to for the redevelopment of the stadium. North and South stands underwent major changes and the suspended cantilever roof have become one of the major features of the stadium.
#4 Delhi Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium
Feroz Shah Kotla, fondly known as the Kotla stadium is the second oldest stadium in India after the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Established in 1883, the ground first hosted a test match in 1948.
The stadium gets its name from the fortress in the vicinity of the ground, built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq.
The stadium was given shape by architects and conservationists Danish Siddiqui and Naval Khanna. In the 21st century the ground has become known for its cauldron-like atmosphere and vociferous crowd.
As the name implies, the Kotla, which means Citadel, has been a fortress for India where they have seldom lost matches. Several records including Anil Kumbles 10 wickets in an innings have seen the Delhi stadium as their venue.
#3 Bangalore M Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium
This is one of the most iconic venues in India set in the silicon valley of Bangalore. Chinnaswamy stadium was built on an enclave belonging to the Indian army in 1969. The ground was christened with the name of the former president of BCCI, Mr. M.Chinnaswamy.
The construction work for the stadium began in 1970 under the auspices of the government of Karnataka. The first class match was played in during the 1972-73 season. The coveted test recognition reached the stadium in 1974 when West Indies toured India.
Ironically, this Test match was also the debut match for the West Indian legends Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards. The first ODI which was played at this venue, saw India beat Sri Lanka by 6 wickets in 1982.
Floodlights were established in 1996 and the first ever day-night encounter ended up as a thriller when India beat Pakistan by 39 runs to book a birth in the semifinals of the 1996 world cup.
The stadium was used as a venue for the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant.
#2 MA Chidambaram Stadium- Chennai
This ground is the spiritual home of cricket in India. Adoringly known as the Chepauk stadium, this is the oldest cricket stadium in India that is in continuous use. The stadium was formerly known as Madras Cricket Club and was built in 1916 by East Coast Constructions and Industries.
With the sea breeze that blows across the stadium that aids swing bowling, the ground is well-known for its sporting wickets.
The first ever Ranji trophy game was played at this venue and India won in its first ever Test match at this venue.
Like the Boxing Day Test matches for Australia, Chennai hosted the Pongal day Test matches in the month of January to mark the beginning of harvests.
In 1986, India and Australia tied a Test match, which was incidentally only the second occurrence in Test cricket.
The Chennai crowd is famous for being the most knowledgeable and most appreciative crowd in India. It is noteworthy that the Chennai crowd gave Saeed Anwar a standing ovation when he scored the phenomenal 194 against the home side. The crowd did the same when the arch-rivals Pakistan won a closely contested Test match against India in 1999.
Floodlights were installed in 1996 for the World Cup and the stadium now boasts of a capacity of 50,000 after undergoing major renovation in 2011.The renovations, parenthetically, took place according to the ‘vaasthu’ tradition of India.
#1 Eden Gardens-Kolkata
Eden Gardens to ODI cricket is what Lords is to Test cricket. A cricketers career is never complete without playing a match in this gargantuan cricket stadium. Perhaps, the grounds sanctity is etched in its name as the name of the stadium evolves from the name of Gods garden in the sanctified gospels. Eden, is the name given to the garden of the God in the Bible in the chapter of genesis. Much like Gods garden, this stadium is also a paradise, procreated for crickets immortal fans.
The tributary of river Ganges that glides by the stadium and the Burmese Pagoda adjacent to the lake make the ground even more divine. Kolkata, simply said, is crickets shrine room- where unadulterated devotion to cricket streams uninhibitedly and the games redolence emanates from and pervades the ambience.
The city of Kolkata hosts the most vociferous and fanatic crowd as would their ability in lobbying team selection in 1946 suggest. An in-form Mushtaq Ali was dropped for an unofficial Test against Australian Services XI, and the crowd protested him back into the XI with slogans like No Mushtaq, no Test.
The crickets answer to the Colosseum was built in 1864 in one of the oldest parks in India-Eden Gardens, which was established in 1841. The garden was named after the Eden Sisters of Lord Auckland, the then Governor General of India. It is said that he wanted to build a circus and a garden. Hence, he gave shape to a recreational ground by the name Auckland Circus Gardens, which would later become the Eden gardens.
The ground had a capacity of 120, 000 during the 1987 world cup and the capacity dropped down to 100,000 later before eventually being truncated to 66,000 after the renovations in 2011. Eden gardens hosted the 1987 cricket World Cup final and the semi-final in the 1996 World Cup.
The first Test match adorned Kolkata in 1934 and the first ODI was played in 1987.
The Burmese Pagoda that is close to the stadium has an enchanting history. The Pagoda was built in 1852 in Bago, Burma by the wife of the governor Ma Kin. The Pagoda has an image of Lord Buddha with precious stones engrained on its forehead. When the Brits won Burma in 1884, the Pagoda was brought to Kolkata and was consecrated close to the colossal stadium.
The ground was used for recreational purposes but when the pavilion was built in 1871, it started hosting cricket matches along with derby football matches. First ever first-class match was played in 1917.
With its rich history behind it, the stadium has hosted more tests than any other venue in India.