Mysore spruces up for big game
The New York Times might have rated Mysore as one of its top places to visit this year, but the city is an unlikely setting for the most important first-class match of the Indian domestic calendar. Ranji Trophy finals are rarely held outside international centres, but the flatness of the track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and the Karnataka State Cricket Association's (KSCA) desire to back their potent pace bowling resulted in the Gangothri Glades landing the big game. That too barely four years after holding its maiden first-class match.
The organisers are understandably elated. "This is a great day for us," says Sunaad Raghuraman, chairman of the KSCA Mysore Zone. "It is a great occasion. I'm sure it will create a lot of interest among the youngsters here. Mysore is fast becoming a big centre for cricket, a good alternative to Bangalore."
It has been a hectic four days for them after Mysore was chosen as the venue for the final. The ground was buzzing with activity a day before the game; shamianas had just been erected over the stands, seating was being arranged - sofas and chairs were being brought in - and a makeshift press box was being set up.
Of the many things to be put in place before the match, the two key ingredients that needed to be looked after are the pitch and the outfield. The greenish track has been deemed satisfactory by both teams, who expect plenty of pace and bounce and feel it will last all five days. The uneven outfield, though, has come in for criticism, with Mumbai coach Praveen Amre saying, "there are high chances of the fielders getting injured." Little can be done about it by the final, but the organisers say there are plans to replace the existing wild grass with Bermuda grass, a staple of many sports fields.
Mysore held two Ranji matches earlier this season, but neither had a full-fledged television broadcast, entailing more work before this game. "We have built two separate enclosures for the television crew," Harikrishna Kumar, convenor of KSCA Mysore zone, said. "We have also constructed stands for the correct positioning of the cameras."
Over the past few years, several Ranji finals in big cities have been played in front of paltry crowds. India's tour of Bangladesh has robbed the final of the star wattage of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan, but over the next week a full house is expected to cheer on the home side.
"I think that's the advantage of playing in a centre like this. People of Mysore really enjoy the game," Robin Uthappa, the Karnataka captain, said. "Generally, even if it is a league game, there are four or five thousand people. So we are obviously expecting a lot more. It's good to have the home support backing you and the crowd behind you. It's a first for a lot of boys and I am sure they are looking forward to it."
Along with crowds comes the question of security of players. "One hundred and fiifty people from police department have been assigned for the match, a private security agency has been engaged, and 50 people from the National Cadet Corps will be on duty," Kumar says, before adding, "The crowd here is very good. There shouldn't be any disturbance."
After Karnataka's semi-final, Dravid had said the future of Ranji Trophy lies away from the metros. "More and more games must now be played in smaller places, as long as the facilities are good," he said. Mysore is doing its best to present the case for the small towns.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo