PART III – CRICKET GROUNDS
WANKHEDE STADIUM, MUMBAI
Wankhade stadium. Photo Courtesy : Sportskeeda
MUMBAI AND CRICKET
Mumbai has always been the hub of Indian cricket. As we all know, it has produced many iconic cricketers for Team India, especially the legends Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. For this reason, the craze of cricket in Mumbai is always high, and the number of people who play cricket in Mumbai is huge.
Unlike other sports, cricket gives a special high for most of the Mumbaikars. Fortunately, there is a place where all the cricket madness gets expressed at Wankhede stadium – The ground of extraordinary feats & historical moments.
Bombay , the Lord’s of India, had used 3 grounds to play cricket.In 1933 it used Gymkhana grounds to play India’s First test inIndia. And then it used Brabourne stadium for 17 tests.
After a rift with the Cricket Club of India at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, the Mumbai Cricket Association wanted to have its own stadium. The MCA built its own Wankhede Stadium, no more than a mile away from Brabourne stadium near Churchgate Railway station, Mumbai at a cost of Rs.1.87 crores. It is named after the Association’s President Barrister Sheshrao Wankhede in 1974. The stadium after redevelopment in 2011 can house 33,000 spectators. It houses the BCCI Headquarters.
Stands : Sunil Gavaskar, North Stand, Vijay Merchant, Sachin Tendulkar, MCA
Pavilion, Divecha Pavilion, Garware Pavilion
End names : Garware Pavilion end and Tata end
Wankhede Stadium elevation above sea level is 13m
Wankhade stadium – Photo courtesy : http://www.architechturaldigest.in
Stands in Wankhede
Photo courtesy : – cricindeed.com
The hi-fi Sachin Tendulkar Stand is the biggest of the order almost occupying a third of the entire stadium and M.S. Dhoni’s winning heave in WC 2011 Final landed here only.
The vociferous cacophony is what the North Stand Gang is known for and which sets the tone for a place where unique chants get started. Interestingly, it is the place that usually sets the environment of the entire stadium. All of them shared a love for the straight view from up top and thus, even the blocks from where the Gang watched matches together were set – G, H – because they offered the straightest view.
Their Twitter handle tagline succinctly put it like this:
“We love Cricket!
Join us in Level 3, North Stand, Wankhede Stadium.
We cheer for India, loudest of all.”
The Gang kept moving forward steadily – they came up with innovative and funny chants, met each other on non-cricket weekends to talk about life and cricket, inducted more like-minded members into the Gang, getting on social media to let more cricket fans know about themselves.
A big break came in 2016 during the India vs. England Test when the Gang members turned out in force (close to 40 members) in their customary white T-shirts and England’s Barmy Army noticed their enthusiasm and perhaps, a kindred spirit too. The Gang received Barmy Army memorabilia and gifted one of their T-shirts. The two groups still keep in regular touch on Twitter.
Cut to today, the Gang has grown exponentially in terms of its membership as well as its presence on social media. From getting featured on podcasts with former international cricketers, journalists from India and South Africa to meeting a few legendary cricketers during the 2019 India vs. SA test at Pune through some kind benefactors, the Gang has traversed quite a distance. But the childlike spirit of camaraderie and unadulterated love for the game remains strong.
The North Stand – Photo courtesy : Twitter handle of North Stand Gang
The Sunil Gavaskar stand is for those who prefer cheap ticket prices, while any fan who loves to catch the ball would like to be in the Vithal Divecha stand in the cow corner region.
One finds it difficult to find a seat in the MCA stand, as it gives a clear view of the dressing room stairs. And the Grandstand is placed right above the sight screen.
This new stadium hosted its first ever international match on 23rd January 1975 for the touring West Indies for the final 5th Test here. And the Windies romped home with a whopping margin of 201 runs when Clive Lloyd hit his career bestof 242 runs unbeaten and with that the series also by 3-2 margin. And it was M.A.K. Pataudi’s last hurrah of international cricket.
Originally designed in 1974, The Wankhede Stadium had 13 acres which was dwindled to 7.5 acres after space was allotted for the Garware Club House. The stadium was renovated by Sahshi Prabhu & Associates in 2009, as the Mumbai Cricket Association got ready to pitch for the Cricket World Cup 2011. The firm took up the challenge of upgrading this structure to world-class standards.
The new stadium was reconstructed in just 14 months with a brand new cantilevered fabric roof with an obstruction free view. The total capacity of the stadium was reduced to 35,000 spectators; however, 72 luxury private boxes were added to the stadium. The roofing system was also upgraded to a cantilevered type so as to eliminate the supporting columns to facilitate obstruction free viewing and also fitted with an underground sprinkler system .
The key features of the stadium include comfortable and safe player’s and VIP areas, dedicated press and commentators’ boxn to accommodate 250 media personnel, underground drainage system, adequate restroom and concession facilities, flood light system. The hard benches were replaced by bucket seats.
One of the highlights of the stadium is the suspended cantilever roofs. The Teflon fabric roof is lighter in weight and heat resistant. There is no beam support for the roof to ensure that the spectators will have a better view. The southern basement was reconstructed, so also the super structure of the North and East stands while the East and West stands were refurbished. On the roof there are exhaust fans which suck the hot air from the stands and allow the breeze from the West to flow in. The stadium has 20 elevators for North and South stands.
The stadium is sprawled across 43,977.93 sq.metres and the plot (land) leased to MCA by the Maharastra State government for 50 years initially was renewed in 2019.
There were some memorable moments including Sunil Gavaskar’s 205 runs against West Indies, Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test in 2013, the charismatic England all rounder, Ian Botham’s all round heroics in the Golden Jubilee Test in 1980 and Australia’s defeat by 13 runs when the ball ball spun viciously in 2004 and Virat Kohli’s double century in 2016.
Among the Tests & ODI matches there are two stand-out matches , viz., the recent India-Newzealand Test 2021 & 2011 World cup Final. On both occasions India was the winner.
2011 WORLD CUP FINAL
The victorious Indian team with the World cup 2011. Photo : Rediff.com
Ravi Shastri in the TV commentary box in a thunderous voice “ Dhoniiii finishes off in style”rent in the air in the Finals of 2011 World Cup at Wankhade stadium.
The wait was over. After 28 years, India lifted the World cup for the second time. When the mercurial Indian captain M.S. Dhoni lifted the ball of the penultimate over bowled by Nuwan Kulasekara in his own inimitable style into the stands. A surcharged atmosphere prevailed in the 2011 WC Final between India & Srilanka as India was chasing 274 runs. After a brilliant hundred by Srilanka’s Mahela Jayawardane, India while chasing lost early wickets of their openers, Viru and Sachin. Then Gautam Gambhir and Kohli steadied the innings with a century partnership and when Kohli left, Dhoni promoted himself up the order above the in-formYuvraj and Dhoni & Gambhir added another century partnership. When Gambhir was out India still needed 40 odd runs. Then Captain cool stepped up the chase and when Dhoni lifted the ball with his penchant helicopter shot there was an eerie silence in the stadium as the ball was soaring high in the sky Dhoni swirled his bat happily And when the ball landed in the long- on stand, there were rambunctious celebrations in the stadium and the players from dug-out ran to hug Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. And India lifted the ODI World cup for the second time after a hiatus gap of 28 years and the Man of the moment was India’s captain MSD.
2021 INDIA- NEWZEALAND TEST
Records galore in the recently concluded Ind-New Zeland Test series provided a touch of class as India scored its highest Test victory in terms of runs in the 2 Test series and Mumbai born New Zeland’s left arm spinner Ajaz Patel hogging the headlines as he claimed all the 10 wickets of Indian batsmen in the first innings. A record to cherish for Ajaz as he became the third bowler in Tests to claim all the 10 wickets after England’s Jim Laker and India’s Anil Kumble.
India elected to bat first and the Indian openers Mayank Agarwal and Gill straight away into the groove attacking the erring deliveries and Mayank spanked the rank bad balls to the fence. He charged down to spinners and eloquently cleared the fielders with consummate ease. His century (150 ) impacted in the ultimate analysis as other batsmen couldn’t cope with the spin of Ajaz Patel.
And Kiwis had no clue how to handle the Indian bowling attack especially their spin trio led by ace spinner R. Ashwin, Jayant Yadav and Axar Patel as they were bundled out for a paltry 62, the lowest total in this stadium, inside one session and India batted second time to ensure a big lead. The Kiwis again faltered of course better this time as they were dismissed for 167 and India romped home with their biggest margin of victory by 372 runs in their Test cricket.
International pop sensation Shakira’s music concert was held here on 25th March 2007 as part of her “Oral Fixation Tour “. To be continued ……..