Modernity at the cost of intimacy?
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