Tuesday 14 June 2011

Sachin and the Tale of Two Nehru Stadiums

The best thing about the generation I grew up was about a special persona called ‘Sachin’. I was inspired more than anything else about this cricketer who continues to enthrall me in my daily life till date. My work for IPL had a special connection related to Sachin and indeed I can say I was fortunate my cricketing thirst was realized to an extent.
I had an opportunity to be at the two new venues of IPL. Both the stadiums had unique culture, style, work ethics, and mannerisms. The first look at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at Kochi, it feels as though one is in a football stadium. It is true, the same venue hosted several football matches in the past including a match that had one lakh spectators. It is a huge stadium in the middle of a public road surrounded by many commercial SME’s.
I have been to cricket stadiums previously, but never once to a football converted cricket stadium. What do I remember about Kochi? Summer of 98 comes to my mind, as a 13 year old school going boy I had my summer holidays. April 98, scenes of Ajay Jadeja scoring a hundred, Kambli in his comeback match, Ajit Agarkar making his debut and vividly I remember the champion picking up 5 wickets for the first time in his career. Oh yes, after creating havoc in the Test series against Australia, it was time for the champ to show his magic with the ball. What amazed me was the leg spinners of his and the amount of turn he managed to get. Six years later, he repeated his feat with the ball against Pakistan by picking up a Michelle at the same venue.
The stats man in me was thrilled to have been in this stadium. Along with the IPL work, I was happy to have met the comrades of Kerala Cricket Association who have been part of Kochi cricket since its debut in 1998. In the free time, I tested my cricketing knowledge with them about the other matches played at Kochi.
While the matches were on at Kochi, I had an opportunity to travel Indore regularly to prepare the venue for IPL. From the humid weather, it was time I welcomed the dry heat of Indore. Apart from Food Street, Indore had a rich history of cricket with Holkars (before it was called Madhya Pradesh) having played their home matches at Indore. The venue for the two home matches of Kochi Tuskers was at the Holkar stadium, which had previously hosted just the two ODI’s. Both being India – England encounters in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
The first question I asked to MPCA (Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association), what about the other ground of Indore? The staff at MPCA was kind enough to give me the address of the same. One fine evening on my way to the airport, I decided to check out this venue. Call it co-incidence; it was the historic Nehru stadium of Indore I was talking about. Just to go back into history, this stadium never hosted an ODI after 2001. It hosted a tie match between India – Zimbabwe, World cup match between Australia – New Zealand in 1987, a controversial abandoned match on the Christmas of 97 between India – Sri Lanka and the eventful historic India – Australia ODI in 2001. Sachin became the first player in ODI’s to score run number 10,000 at this very ground.
Luck has it; the Nehru stadium has become a public play ground and doesn’t look like a venue that had previously hosted international matches. It was disappointing to see the ground reality of this venue. Well, that’s how things go I believe. Before getting in to the car, I managed to see the long bat signed by the entire team of victorious India of 1971 England tour. Next day, I was back in Kochi and walked around the Nehru stadium. I thought to myself – How contrasting the two venues of the same name are?

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