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If the World Cup is to be a roll call of some of India's leading venues across the country, then the ones lurking at the bottom of the pile should be Delhi (for administrative inefficiency) and Ahmedabad for a startling shabbiness. Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla has been remodelled, but its governors have stayed the same. It is Ahmedabad which is a mystery.
When the 1987 World Cup came to Motera, with an India-Australia game, crowds walked in carrying picnic baskets of food and spent the day munching through a hamper of goodies, which beat the quality and quantity of everything on offer. Motera was still a village with a cricket ground plonked in it. Its surroundings have gone from being fields, farmlands and mud houses to concrete low-rise homes, shops and a south-north access road. Over the last two decades, the stadium has made additions to its stands and is now entirely covered. In the city that has one of India's few drive-in cinemas still working, a big cricket match is still treated like Friday night at the movies. Everybody wants to make the only show on the solitary day. Two days before the World Cup, the ticket stands outside the Motera are not marked "Sold Out" but "House Full".
The world around it and the sport it celebrates has changed radically, but on the inside, the Sardar Patel Stadium has stayed trapped in a time warp. Let it be known however that players facilities are immaculate: the dressing rooms are huge, there are a handy bunch of nets on one side of the ground and teams get feted and looked after like State guests. For the public though, it has all been allowed to go into what appears to be a state of decay: corridors are musty, toilets are dirty, their powerful smell hangs around the staircases along with paan stains. There are cobwebs and trails of dirt running on walls, this even through the newer parts of the stadium. Special 'boxes' in one section of the ground were ready for the big day with a decor that could only be called grunge.
All of that could be window dressing but a section of the road being tarred and laid out just a day before the World Cup quarter-final is not. A two-kilometre queue of traffic three hours before the toss on single lane access to the stadium is not. Nor is the sight of people milling about dangerously in front of traffic prone to sudden acceleration at the sign of a turning or a gate, watched by indifferent cops who had thought nothing of organising a safe pathway for pedestrians. This was the city's biggest ODI in the last 15 years, surely the men behind Motera could have done better. They receive the BCCI's largesse in crores of rupees every year to update facilities and they have had three years to slap the ground into shape. The crowd atmosphere at the Sardar Patel Stadium was excellent and players won't complain. But Motera's fitness as a specator-friendly venue remains sorely suspect.
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