July 12, 2010

Sidharth Monga on India in Sri Lanka 2010

Modernity at the cost of intimacy?

Sidharth Monga
Renovation work in full swing at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, February 16, 2010
Renovation work in full swing at the Wankhede Stadium, but the intimacy won't be there once it's ready  © Getty Images
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The R Premadasa is a mess right now. It is being redone for the World Cup. I have never watched a cricket match here, but I don’t like what I see. Rather I don’t like what I foresee. It’s a massive construction site, all the stands have been brought down. There are giant machines, iron rods, bricks, cement, mud all over, and it’s an achievement to get to where the Indian nets are. Sooner than we realise it might even become a swank stadium. It might even have a spaceship press box, who knows?

It reminds me of the Wankhede Stadium. It perhaps looks similar to what Premadasa does now. Both the stadiums are being redone for the World Cup. Wankhede, too, will in all likelihood emerge an enviable cricket ground, but it will be far removed from my Wankhede. The Wankhede I knew gave me the best cricket-watching experience, during domestic matches that is.

Just outside the press box, I could sit, in the shade, take in the breeze from the Arabian Sea, right behind the bowler’s arm. That was not nearly the best part of it. Where I sat wasn’t too high: I could hear what the keeper shouts to the bowler, the jokes being cracked in the slips, the sledging, the captain fighting with his bowler, the umpire telling the batsman “right-arm medium, coming over the wicket to you”. In the commercial hub of the commercial hub of India, time would slow down during Ranji Trophy matches.

Now, though, a state-of-the-art stadium will replace my Wankhede. A symbol of India’s economic might in the world of cricket. Who knows, they might even come up with the best cricket stadium in the world with the best facilities. My Wankhede, though, I am not going to get back. Now, admittedly, there are much more charming grounds than the one-day specialist Premadasa in Colombo, but I wonder if somebody is losing their Premadasa too.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Mahek on (July 14, 2010, 1:01 GMT)

Intimate Wankhede? Gee Siddharth, it was a concrete monster with wooden benches and concrete slabs. Get off your high horse and think of the paying public that has to endure Mumbai's terrible weather. Oh and you can have an intimate stadium even after renovation, it's just that modern India has no sense of aesthetics. You wanna see modern beautiful stadia check out some of the major league ballparks, especially Petco Park in San Diego.

Posted by Venkatesh on (July 13, 2010, 16:45 GMT)

Interesting that so much money is being pumped in for essentially 1 or 2 matches during the 2011 World Cup - after the event, these stadia will be largely empty during Tests matches and, gradually, interest will fade away in One-day matches and T20s. Cricket has become a TV event, not a spectator sport to be watched live.

If only scarce investment dollars are channeled towards affordable housing and other meaningful activities, India will be far ahead economically compared to the collasal waste incurred almost non-stop thanks to Pawar and to the Indian public.

Posted by Vishnu on (July 13, 2010, 14:00 GMT)

What we have to accept is that nothing lasts forever. We should just enjoy things while they last. My cousin brother has watched Sachin Tendulkar -er, 'Tendlya' growing up. Now, he just remembers 'the good old days'. Pity the good old days will never come back, but they might give lasting memories for some. The memories are for those who were there. Others? They should acknowledge them gracefully, because they themselves are in process of making meories for use later on.

Posted by RajasH on (July 13, 2010, 13:36 GMT)

There is no more intimacy but commercialism in international cricket. I never been to R.Premadasa stdium, but SSC still offers some intimacy. I watched Australia v Pakistan ODI at Lords this summer and it was fun, the administrators though should let some atmosphere get in to the grounds.Banning musical implements and restricting on booze makes the atmosphere dour. An Ebglish village game is best for intimacy and lazy relaxing

Posted by Chesters on (July 13, 2010, 13:03 GMT)

Premadasa Stadium, even when full was like sitting in a cavernous , shapeless monstrosity – a venue with ugly tiers of concrete benches in a down at heel location. It is why no one can expect anything better; the architects have no imagination and so will the new stadium be another monument to tawdry ugliness reflecting those who control Sri Lanka Cricket.

Posted by Nostalgic Premadasa on (July 13, 2010, 11:00 GMT)

Everyday I pass by the Premedasa on my way to school. For over the last 6 months it has looked just the same if not worse. Construction is taking a very long time and I fear it won't be properly ready for the world cup. I think they have to start hustling and try and get it donr before it becomes an embarrassment for Sri Lanka.

Posted by WACA tragic on (July 13, 2010, 6:54 GMT)

Indeed i agree, i much prefer a cricket "ground" as opposed to cauldron-esque stadium. can't comment on sub-continent grounds having never been there. But in Australia I find the WACA, Adelaide Oval and Bellrieve Oval much more of a spectators delight than the MCG or GABBA grounds. Even though at the WACA any form of enjoyment is drained out as Eskies and Bags of any sort are checked for anything remotely resembling food or drink. God forbid we paid less than $8 for a mid-strength beer..

Posted by Abhishek on (July 13, 2010, 5:15 GMT)

Well said Sidharth. For all its negatives as a stadium, one could hear all the sounds emanating from the middle at the Wankhede which does not happen that much at the CCI, probably because of the open spaces near the pavilion. I remember watching Rahul Dravid on 199 against Mumbai in 2007 and surrounded by almost 7 players (I think) on the leg side. Left arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla beat him a few times and one could hear the oohs and aahs of the fielders so clearly that one felt part of the action. When the legend swept his way to a double century beating the leg side cordon, it was like the tension had been released. He had been recently dropped from the ODI side and every run of his was cheered by the 50-100 odd people in the Garware Pavilion. Will never get that in a MI vs RCB match I guess.

Posted by Vish, NZ on (July 13, 2010, 4:52 GMT)

I fully agree. In Wellington we have the tests played at the Basin Reserve which I would rate as one of the most intimate grounds to watch cricket at. Contrast that against the WestpacTrust Stadium where the limited overs games are played: it is a concrete beast!!! I would say the Basin is for the true cricket lover who would rather watch test cricket and the concrete stadia are for the uninitiated!! You may call me elitist, but do I care!!!

Posted by Tharindu on (July 13, 2010, 4:48 GMT)

I dont think the R premadasa stadium was a ever a village cricket ground like the one you saw in Wankhede. i think the grounds which holds resemblance to your description is the SSC in Sri Lanka, i think renovating the Premadasa will only make it better as the main stadium is Sri Lanka which will have the capacity to hold big crowds and it's specially important with the rise of T20 cricket, to have a stadium like this

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