Do you recall a stadium in India which has been named after a living cricketer? I am sure most of you will begin to Google this, and I can assure you that the results will not be promising.
Let us begin with Col. CK Nayudu, India's first Test captain. When a stadium was being constructed in Indore (where Col. Saab lived), his name did the rounds during initial discussions. But it was eventually named after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Col. Saab just got a statue outside the stadium.
On this, Col Saab said:
“We are all very proud of our beloved leader of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru and it should be a matter of pride for us that the Stadium has been named after this great son of India.”
I won’t go into the rationale behind this decision as it happened more than 50 years ago.
Let’s take another instance from the field of hockey, where the Mohali stadium was named after the three-time Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Sr. soon after his death. An excellent decision in my view, but did we have to wait for him to start his journey to the heavens to name a stadium after him?
I am not for a second hinting that naming a stadium after them is the only way to honour a cricketer, or any sportsperson for that matter. But if it has to be done, then let it happen while they are alive.
Can we give them a small return gift while they can cherish it?
As performers on the field, these people have given us numerous smiles, even when we were worn down by our own lives. Can we give them a small return gift while they can still see and cherish it?
Let’s take the case of some of the biggest cricketers produced by the nation. How nice would it be for Bishan Singh Bedi to walk with his grandchildren in a sporting arena named after him?
Similarly, Kapil Dev would probably feel great if he saw India winning a match at a ground bearing his name. I was quite surprised to find that Sunil Gavaskar has a stadium named after him in Louisville, Kentucky (USA). Another stadium with the name of the Little Master is in his home district in Vengurla. But surely, he deserves a Test venue under his name.
The balancing act that has been performed is to name stands, ends, and pavilions after cricketers. So, we have a Sachin Tendulkar stand and a Sunil Gavaskar Pavilion among others at the Wankhede.
Likewise, there are Bishan Singh Bedi and Virender Sehwag stands at the Arun Jaitley stadium (also called the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground). We also have a Anil Kumble Circle near the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Some would say it is enough, but is it?
“The entire ground belongs to me Ravi”
Once, upon being asked by Ravi Shastri if the Eden Gardens should have a Sourav Ganguly stand, the former skipper cheekily remarked, “The entire ground belongs to me Ravi.” (A stand was later named after Ganguly in 2017).
So, are the players losing anything? I don’t think so. These legends have achieved too much to fret over small things like the naming of grounds. But it is a loss to the history that will be read many years later by future generations.
Here, I am reminded of Harsha Bhogle’s response to Geoffrey Boycott on the topic of Sachin Tendulkar missing out from the Lord’s honour board. Harsha had said, “So whose loss is it, Sachin’s or the honour board's?”
In this regard, the people from the Caribbean Islands have done a good job. There is a Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua, a Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad and a Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in Saint Lucia. So, there is definitely some catching up to do for India.
Given the issues being faced by cricket and other sports currently, this is definitely not a burning problem. But I sincerely hope that we give this privilege to all sportspeople while they are on planet Earth. If it doesn’t happen, then as Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”