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Mumbai, the traditional cricket capital of India, has hosted Test matches at three different grounds. The Bombay Gymkhana ground hosted the first Test in India, in 1933-34 against England. After WW-II, the Cricket Club of India's Brabourne Stadium was used for 17 Tests. However, due to a dispute between the Cricket Club of India (whose ground the Brabourne Stadium is) and the Bombay Cricket Association, the BCA built the 45000-capacity Wankhede Stadium, no more than a mile away.
The Wankhede Stadium staged its first Test in the 1974-75 season when West Indies toured India. Clive Lloyd scored an unbeaten 242 and in Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's last hurrah, India lost by 201 runs. The Test also featured a crowd disturbance after a fan, who rushed onto the ground to greet Lloyd, was treated roughly by the police.
India's first victory here was posted against the New Zealand two seasons later. The stadium has been the venue of some great innings such as Sunil Gavaskar's 205 against the West Indies and Alvin Kallicharan's 187 in the same game in the 1978-79 series and all-round heroics led by Ian Botham's century and 13 wickets in the Jubilee Test in 1980, which England won by 10 wickets.
The highest score by an Indian at Wankhede remains Vinod Kambli's 224 against England in 1992-93 in only his third Test. Incidentally Ravi Shastri's six sixes in an over off Baroda's Tilak Raj en route to the then fastest double-hundred in first-class cricket was on this ground in 1984-85.
The seaside location of the Wankhede stadium meant that swing bowlers got a fair amount of assistance during the early part of each day and again in the final session when the sea breeze set in. However, when the stands were rebuilt ahead of the 2011 World Cup, these effects reduced somewhat. The pitch has traditionally been full of runs, but it the red soil ensures that there is some help for spinners during the last couple of days of a five-day game.
In the 2005 Test against Australia, the ball spun viciously from early on and this, coupled with low bounce, helped India win in under three days even though almost a whole day was lost to rain. The Wankhede Stadium has stands named after legendary Mumbai cricketers such as Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar.
Anand Vasu