Delhi Daredevils v Pune Warriors, IPL 2013, Raipur April 27, 2013

Raipur joins the carnival

The IPL bandwagon comes with bells and whistles to the ambitious capital of Chhattisgarh
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The signs of the great Indian cricketing circus greet you in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

Mostly there are large hoardings of Delhi Daredevils stars, and a few also feature Chhattisgarh's chief minister Raman Singh. Some Pune Warriors cricketers attended a showroom inauguration in the city, which was enough to gridlock some of the roads as fans waited outside with mobile phones in their hands. In between commenting on how good-looking a few of the Warriors' foreign players were, a group of young girls discussed whether Shah Rukh Khan would make it here for the Kolkata Knight Riders' match on May 1.

Raipur was allotted two IPL games in January after the chief minister invited GMR, the owners of the Daredevils franchise, to host some of their home matches here. Following inspections and a few meetings, the approvals came in, and in February the state's public works department swung into action to spruce up the ground in time; they completed work on the interior in less than two months.

"We decided to play here to honour an invitation from the government of Chhattisgarh, which wanted to showcase their stadium and its facilities to the world, and this is a great platform to do that," a Daredevils spokesperson said.

There is talk also about a power plant that GMR is supposedly setting up in the state, near Raipur, but the connections between the business and cricket are for now mostly tenuous.

The long road that separates the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium from the city of Raipur is flanked by vast stretches of farms, grazing pastures, and the odd concrete structure. This road connects Raipur to its new twin city, Naya Raipur, the planned administrative capital of Chhattisgarh, where the state government's functionaries will be housed.

Two structures stand out: the stadium and the Swami Vivekananda Airport, a swanky structure of glass and chrome, both gleaming edifices of modernity.

The stadium is a hive of activity as the local association's officials prepare for their first big show - the Sunday game between Daredevils and Warriors.

Raipur's first IPL match is as much a testimony to political will as it is to cricket's mass following. Much of Chhattisgarh's cricket history is shared with Madhya Pradesh, the state from which it was carved in 2000. Raipur's selection as an IPL venue may have been baffling - the city is more than 1000km from Delhi, and was not seen as a catchment area or a cricketing outpost for the Daredevils franchise - but now, a few days before the game, the doubts are dispelled. The stadium looks every bit the picture of the modern sports arena it was intended to be. The media facilities have been redone, the corporate boxes are plush, and roofs cover the rest of the ground, giving the ordinary spectator enough comfort from the stifling heat.

This is a big test for the Chhattisgarh State Cricket Association, which has been an associate member of the BCCI for the last five years. A couple of smoothly organised games will strengthen their case for full-time membership. In the five years that it has been a member, the association has organised age-group tournaments and inter-district tournaments, but this is its first brush with the real big time.

In an interview with a local newspaper, the chief minister spoke about how the IPL would pave the way for Raipur to host Ranji games, ODIs, and perhaps even a Test match, a sentiment echoed by Rajesh Dave, secretary of the cricket association. "This is the first time a match of this magnitude is taking place in Raipur and we have had a great response from the crowd. It is an important match for us," he said.

And yet, in the midst of all this modernity and talk of planning, there are quaint reminders of the recent past. Open fields near the stadium have been converted into parking lots; match day brings the promise of unrivalled chaos on the road.

The ordinary fans are more concerned about things like getting into the stadium rather than the association's ambitions. Tickets for both matches are nearly sold out but people are still lining up in the hope that they may get lucky.

Umesh Marwah, a salesman at a local store, was one such, keen to take his children to the game. "I'm definitely going to try and buy some tickets for the Kolkata game [on May 1]. I may even get to see Shah Rukh Khan," he said.

At a local ice-cream parlour, 20-year-old Dinesh Mishra was thrilled when asked about his plans for the match, for which he booked tickets as soon as they were available online. "A group of us are going to cheer for Delhi at the ground. We are planning to visit the team hotels so we get to see some cricketers up close."

Close to the ground, a couple of men were waiting at a safe distance from the lathi-bearing policemen and traffic barricades to see the team bus. One of them said he was there to catch a glimpse of Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh. The tickets, starting at around Rs 850, were too expensive for him, he said.

At the ground, which is cordoned off with tight security, a group of policemen craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the cricketers arriving or leaving the ground, awestruck and momentarily oblivious of their law-and-order duties.

If you leave the politics and the business aspects of it aside, Raipur presents solid reasons why the IPL can think of moving a couple of games every season away from the big cities and into the smaller towns. Matches can be used as incentives to spur local associations to bring their cricketing infrastructure up to the mark and to maintain these facilities and conduct local matches. For the franchises, it opens up new fan bases, and in terms of cricketing investment, helps create a pool of local players. And there is, of course, the bigger cricketing reason: of just taking the game to places where it is loved and appreciated.

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ravi2047 on April 29, 2013, 7:28 GMT

    I remember only those wild dark forests, many canals and rivers, and the sounds from trains crossing heavy iron bridges whenever I used to pass through Chhattisgarh/Raipur in my travel from Nagpur to Rourkela. This has been a real turn around for a state which is under-developed or should I say a fast developing one.

    This is what IPL is all about - showcasing the unseen India to the world. It also provides a platform for not only players but also the organizers to test themselves to host such magnum events of an international level. IPL has definitely helped in the country's development. I wish we add another international Test venue in the country at Raipur soon.

  • on April 28, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    There was a time when I used to watch a cricket match in television being played at England in Raipur and now, is the time when I am watching a cricket match in television being played at Raipur in England. Wow! feeling for me.

    When my peers asked me here in London about the reason for ever glowing smile in my face while watching the match I told them with immense pride that - Mate - its being played in my city called RAIPUR...

    They appreciated the stadium, crowd and ambience as well.

    Huh! I missed to be a part of memorable history and was also desperate to be with my friends down there in Raipur whistling and cheering the most loved game of Cricket but still thoroughly enjoyed to see my city organising the IPL match with success for the first time.

    Loved it, adored it and at last missed it too...

    Chattisgariya Sable Badiya...

  • on April 28, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Finally... newly international cricket ground of Raipur hosting two IPL matches and its a good start for all the cricket lovers and for those talented yougsters who are looking for opportunities and careers in cricket. I hope for the ODI, Test and Ranji matches to be organsed here in future, no doubt Chhattisgarh as a fast developing state and the enthusiastic hardworking people of chhattisgarh will be co-operating and providing everything for this king of initiative. Go on Raipur... and thanks BCCI :)

  • on April 28, 2013, 3:46 GMT

    It'a momentous day for all the cricket lovers of chhattisgarh, a state which badly needed a international cricket match to stamp it authority in cricket fraternity of the country............Hopefully it's the start of many good things to come. After this match one will hope that Raipur will get a chance to host Test AND odis.

  • shubham.nishad on April 28, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    Good for development of Raipur and Chattisgarh. If the two matches are hosted successfully, this will put Raipur on international identity and that is surely gonna benefit Cricket in Chattisgarh. Good Luck folks, enjoy the game.

  • dhussey006 on April 28, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    Good luck . Hopefully it will be recommending for international matches

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    great to see this beautiful stadium in cg.

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    this chhattishgarh stadium gives international identy of chhattishgarh.

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Must be aentertaining match at this new IPL ground

  • Knightriders_suck on April 28, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    Raipur is so far from all the IPL centres. May be a tenth team in central india would be nice. I am certain a team which rotates it's stadium between the MP/Chattisgarh/Vidarbha stadiums should garner full houses every match. Good for the owners, not certain about the players though.

  • ravi2047 on April 29, 2013, 7:28 GMT

    I remember only those wild dark forests, many canals and rivers, and the sounds from trains crossing heavy iron bridges whenever I used to pass through Chhattisgarh/Raipur in my travel from Nagpur to Rourkela. This has been a real turn around for a state which is under-developed or should I say a fast developing one.

    This is what IPL is all about - showcasing the unseen India to the world. It also provides a platform for not only players but also the organizers to test themselves to host such magnum events of an international level. IPL has definitely helped in the country's development. I wish we add another international Test venue in the country at Raipur soon.

  • on April 28, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    There was a time when I used to watch a cricket match in television being played at England in Raipur and now, is the time when I am watching a cricket match in television being played at Raipur in England. Wow! feeling for me.

    When my peers asked me here in London about the reason for ever glowing smile in my face while watching the match I told them with immense pride that - Mate - its being played in my city called RAIPUR...

    They appreciated the stadium, crowd and ambience as well.

    Huh! I missed to be a part of memorable history and was also desperate to be with my friends down there in Raipur whistling and cheering the most loved game of Cricket but still thoroughly enjoyed to see my city organising the IPL match with success for the first time.

    Loved it, adored it and at last missed it too...

    Chattisgariya Sable Badiya...

  • on April 28, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Finally... newly international cricket ground of Raipur hosting two IPL matches and its a good start for all the cricket lovers and for those talented yougsters who are looking for opportunities and careers in cricket. I hope for the ODI, Test and Ranji matches to be organsed here in future, no doubt Chhattisgarh as a fast developing state and the enthusiastic hardworking people of chhattisgarh will be co-operating and providing everything for this king of initiative. Go on Raipur... and thanks BCCI :)

  • on April 28, 2013, 3:46 GMT

    It'a momentous day for all the cricket lovers of chhattisgarh, a state which badly needed a international cricket match to stamp it authority in cricket fraternity of the country............Hopefully it's the start of many good things to come. After this match one will hope that Raipur will get a chance to host Test AND odis.

  • shubham.nishad on April 28, 2013, 16:51 GMT

    Good for development of Raipur and Chattisgarh. If the two matches are hosted successfully, this will put Raipur on international identity and that is surely gonna benefit Cricket in Chattisgarh. Good Luck folks, enjoy the game.

  • dhussey006 on April 28, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    Good luck . Hopefully it will be recommending for international matches

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    great to see this beautiful stadium in cg.

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    this chhattishgarh stadium gives international identy of chhattishgarh.

  • on April 28, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Must be aentertaining match at this new IPL ground

  • Knightriders_suck on April 28, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    Raipur is so far from all the IPL centres. May be a tenth team in central india would be nice. I am certain a team which rotates it's stadium between the MP/Chattisgarh/Vidarbha stadiums should garner full houses every match. Good for the owners, not certain about the players though.

  • on April 28, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    It'a memorable day for all the cricket lovers of chattisgarh, a state which badly needed a international cricket match to stamp its authority in cricket fraternity of the country............Hopefully it's the start of many good things to come. After this match one will hope that Raipur will get a chance to host Test AND ODI"S.

  • sweetspot on April 28, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Tickets for both games in Raipur - SOLD OUT! That's the kind of boost that really makes for the health of the sport in any country. Citizens of Raipur, many cheers on your new stadium and we hope you get to enjoy a good game for starters. Hopefully one day, one of your own teams will play and make their fortress here!

  • on April 28, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Good Luck to Chhattisgarh cricket association and CM Raman Singh. Let the IPL match bring in lot of happiness to Raipur and C'Ghar.

  • Siva_Bala75 on April 28, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    After almost 4 weeks, I am going to catch up with some sleep and going to miss my first match of this season, if you call that as a 'miss'.

  • on April 28, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Hope the new ground, brings good luck to the home team and turns around their fortunes!!

  • on April 27, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    looks great!!!cant wait to see it

  • BRUTALANALYST on April 27, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    Makes sense, the banning of SL players in Chennai has been the only dampener on what else has been a fantastic thoroughly enjoyable tournament.

  • Htc-Baseball on April 27, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    Its interesting to see that inspite of bosting a huge fan base chennai matches haven drawn the crowds and stadiums are 1/4th empty. People prefer watching in television rather than spending thousands for a matc.Seriously the pricing strategy has to be reconciked. As an outsider it doesn look good to watch a match with half empty stands on television, this belitte's the IPL's success.

  • uppi2kcp on April 27, 2013, 19:29 GMT

    yup...thats true ...hope mysore gets a new stadium....the pitch is the best in the country

  • on April 27, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    Congratulations to the cricket lovers from Raipur. You have a world class stadium at your doorstep!

  • TNAmarkFromIndia on April 27, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    It's certainly something that the franchises could ponder about. Have some of the games in other cities that don't get IPL matches. You would probably get a higher turnout than in your own home because these people would be craving for the opportunity to get to witness the IPL fever live and in person. It's a win for those fans as well as the franchise if they get better gate receipts.

  • TNAmarkFromIndia on April 27, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    It's certainly something that the franchises could ponder about. Have some of the games in other cities that don't get IPL matches. You would probably get a higher turnout than in your own home because these people would be craving for the opportunity to get to witness the IPL fever live and in person. It's a win for those fans as well as the franchise if they get better gate receipts.

  • on April 27, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    Congratulations to the cricket lovers from Raipur. You have a world class stadium at your doorstep!

  • uppi2kcp on April 27, 2013, 19:29 GMT

    yup...thats true ...hope mysore gets a new stadium....the pitch is the best in the country

  • Htc-Baseball on April 27, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    Its interesting to see that inspite of bosting a huge fan base chennai matches haven drawn the crowds and stadiums are 1/4th empty. People prefer watching in television rather than spending thousands for a matc.Seriously the pricing strategy has to be reconciked. As an outsider it doesn look good to watch a match with half empty stands on television, this belitte's the IPL's success.

  • BRUTALANALYST on April 27, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    Makes sense, the banning of SL players in Chennai has been the only dampener on what else has been a fantastic thoroughly enjoyable tournament.

  • on April 27, 2013, 20:40 GMT

    looks great!!!cant wait to see it

  • on April 28, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Hope the new ground, brings good luck to the home team and turns around their fortunes!!

  • Siva_Bala75 on April 28, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    After almost 4 weeks, I am going to catch up with some sleep and going to miss my first match of this season, if you call that as a 'miss'.

  • on April 28, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Good Luck to Chhattisgarh cricket association and CM Raman Singh. Let the IPL match bring in lot of happiness to Raipur and C'Ghar.

  • sweetspot on April 28, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    Tickets for both games in Raipur - SOLD OUT! That's the kind of boost that really makes for the health of the sport in any country. Citizens of Raipur, many cheers on your new stadium and we hope you get to enjoy a good game for starters. Hopefully one day, one of your own teams will play and make their fortress here!