This is the first time a high-profile match involving international players will be played outside the venerated cauldrons of the Wankhede and Brabourne stadiums in Mumbai. If external appearance is any indicator, the DY Patil Sports Stadium is all decked up and ready for the big event tomorrow, when Mumbai Indians play Deccan Chargers.
Located 35 kilometeres east of Mumbai, adjacent to the Mumbai-Pune highway, the stadium is a visual delight. It has a capacity of 55,000, which is 15,000 more than the Wankhede, and has all the amenities required to satisfy the needs of the spectator.
Interestingly, the ground was not one of the venues for the IPL till two months ago. Preparations gathered momentum after the management of the Cricket Club of India, who are the owners of the Brabourne Stadium which was originally scheduled to host the matches, opted out after the IPL refused to give free tickets to its members. Since the Wankhede was not equipped to host ten games on the trot, the DY Patil Stadium came in to fill the breach.
The ground, located inside the DY Patil Sports Complex, hasn't yet been inaugurated and is still nearing completion. But the pitch and outfield look in excellent condition.
Peter Muzzell, the chief curator who has worked on the four pitches in the centre, believes the track has all the qualities to make tomorrow's game, and the rest of the games played here, exciting contests. "The main wicket was relaid recently and there was a corporate Twenty20 event held here recently on it and the scores were competitive," Muzzell said.
That event was the fourth edition of the DY Patil All-India Invitation Twenty20 championship where Virender Sehwag, representing ONGC, smashed a 35-ball hundred. Muzzell, who was the pitch consultant at the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, expects similar fare tomorrow even though the pitch for the game is a new one. "It is a new wicket and all new wickets take time to settle. So we'll have to wait for tomorrow, but I expect the scores to be on par with the rest of IPL venues," Muzzell said
More than the ground itself or the pitch, though, the problem for the venue is its location. The Wankhede is situated at the southern tip of Mumbai and is accessible through various modes of commute. The DY Patil ground, on the other hand, is situated outside the city. With the ground hosting night games, it remains to be seen if fans will be willing to travel long distances late at night for the cricket.
Abey Kuruvilla, in charge of the sports complex, is confident that the event will attract a huge crowd. "There are 1.7 million people in New Bombay. Then the ground is located at a comfortable distance for people staying in neighbouring Pune and also some parts of Gujarat like Surat. Also, there are the people from the nearby districts like Raigad who have never seen such big cricket," Kuruvilla said.
On their part, the organisers are doing their bit to ensure the spectators have a good experience. They have worked out an arrangement to make the commute from the ground after the game a hassle-free experience. Buses of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport will ply from the venue to the nearby central railway stations every five minutes after the completion of each game. Reliance, the owners of Mumbai Indians, have also worked out a schedule with the railway authorities to provide additional train services for the fans late in the night.
The fans have already given their initial verdict: the tickets for the first IPL game at the ground have been sold out.