“ A Bengali Historian once complained that had Mahatma Gandhi not assumed control of the Indian national movement, football rather than cricket would have become the country’s national sport . Mahatma Gandhi decisively moved the centre of politics from Bengal to Western India, where cricket dominated. Hence cricket became India’s most avidly patronized sport “ – Historian Author Ramachandra Guha in his book “A Corner of a Foreign Field”.
Cricket is unusual among major sports in that there is no official rule for a fixed-shape ground for professional games though ICC stipulates the size of the ground under ICC Rules 10.1.3. On most grounds, a rope demarcates the perimeter of the field and is known as the boundary.
CRICKET GROUNDS IN INDIA
.A cricket ground plays an important role in the conduct of the game . India can boast of having 52 International grounds,( both past and present), the highest in the world of cricket.
Out of the 52 International cricket grounds, 24 are active and hosting international matches .
Mumbai is the birthplace of cricket in the country, where the Parsis first played cricket along with the British, who brought the game to our country during colonial rule.
Mumbai had three cricket grounds, viz., Gymkhana, Brabourne and Wankhade stadium.
Gymkhana Grounds, Bombay hosted the first-ever international cricket in India when the Indians played its First Test in India against the visiting M.C.C. (England) in 1933.
Gymkhana grounds- Photo courtesy : Indian Express
On the 19th of June 1875, a meeting of sports enthusiasts was held in the office of Wm. Nicol and Co. when it was decided to amalgamate the existing sports clubs, cricket, polo, football and gun into the Bombay Gymkhana.
The establishment of the Bombay Gymkhana was largely due to the steadfast efforts of Captain Ernest Lindsay Marryat and Lieutenant Carmichael Light Young.
The First President of the Bombay Gymkhana was Sir Lyttleton Bayley, Acting Chief Justice of Bombay and a former cricket captain of Eton, who served in this capacity for 20 years. Social status and an interest in sports were important criteria for membership and 200 gentlemen were enrolled as the first members of the new Club.
Permission was obtained from the authorities to erect a Club House on the Parade Ground (now Azad Maidan) which was designed by John Adams and completed in 1876. The total cost of Rs.15,625 for the construction of the building was primarily raised by subscriptions and donations from Members, while the Parsi philanthropist, Sir Cowasji Jehangir, voluntarily contributed Rs.1000 for the furnishings although he could never enter the Club House since membership was then open only to Europeans.
Formed in 1875 exclusively for Europeans, the Gymkhana remained that way till into the 20th century and even Ranjitsinhji was refused admission. The only Indians allowed into the club were servants, although this rule had to be suspended for the 1932-33 Test to allow the players to use the facilities.
The Gymkhana’s Grounds offers its members various sporting facilities like rugby, football, cricket, swimming, tennis, badminton, squash and also has a fitness centre. It is located in the precincts of Azad Maidan and is in close proximity to Victoria Terminus ( now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) railway station in the heart of the Mumbai City.
The unique Swiss Chalet style Bombay Gymkhana Club House and Pavilion designed by John Adams was completed in 1876. This was given a Heritage status and treated as a protected structure under Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s guidelines. The Gymkhana Club’s members reflect the spirit of this great cosmopolitan city. Sports bind the members be it in Cricket, Tennis, football, billiards etc. This club also has a unisex Gymnasium, yoga facilities, a library, a convenience store and dining facilities.
FIRST TEST IN INDIA
And just a week before that first Test, the ground hosted the MCC tour match against Bombay Presidency XI when 20,000 attended. It had also hosted that initial first-class game in 1877, the Presidency match between the Parsees (the first community from India to take to the game) and the Europeans, which ended in a draw.
The Gymkhana grounds hosted India’s First ever Test in India in 1933 against M.C.C. (England )which the Tourists won comfortably by 9 wickets. Indian team was captained by Col. C.K. Nayudu. It was the 16th game of the tour captained by Douglas Jardine ( “Bodyline” (in)famous captain).
Temporary stands and shaminas were put up at the ground to accommodate a record crowd of 50,000 people, with tickets selling at five times their usual price. Lala Amarnath’s maiden century, noted to be one of the best innings played in Indian cricket, is still etched in our memory. It hasn’t hosted any senior players matches since the Brabourne Stadium took its place in 1937, replacing the ground as the venue for the Bombay Pentangular as well as international matches.
It was the only Test held here as the game, later on, moved to other places including Brabourne Stadium, Bombay.
In 2004, the Indian Women’s team played an ODI against the Australian Women’s team at Bombay Gymkhana. In March 2010, Mumbai Indians played a practice match at the ground ahead of the IPL season. Later in the year, the Canada team played a match against a Bombay Gymkhana team to prepare for the World cup in 2011.
To be continued …….