Five permanent Test centres: The history, the knowledgeable crowd, and the friendly weather

Our cricket reporters choose their permanent Test venues in the country, weighing in on the assortment of factors that led to the cities making it to the list.

Eden Gardens is everyone’s favourite for the passion that the audience brings to the contest.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Earlier this week, the final Test between India and South Africa witnessed a lukewarm response from the Indian crowd in Ranchi, prompting skipper Virat Kohli to suggest the idea of five permanent Test centres for future home series, similar to the English and Australian model when top teams tour those countries.

In India's bigger cities, crowds have generally been more supportive of Tests. But over the last 10 years, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata have hosted only 18 Tests combined.

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None of the venues for the just concluded Freedom Series — Visakhapatnam, Pune or Ranchi — have traditionally hosted five-day matches, with all three conducting only their second Tests.

These are some of the suggestions that our panel of  nine cricket reporters came up with, weighing in on the assortment of factors that led to the venues making it to the list.

Vijay Lokapally

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Holkar Stadium, Indore

 

I would pick these venues as permanent Test centres because cricket is ingrained in these five great cities of India. Of course, Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi and Green Park in Kanpur lose their status for lack of quality infrastructure and spectator comfort.

Eden Gardens is everyone’s favourite for the passion that the audience brings to the contest. There is a pure joy once you occupy your seat. The venue has a history of having produced some of the most fascinating matches, the most breathtaking being the 2001 Test against Steve Waugh’s Australia. The playing conditions often test the cricketers’ resilience.

Holkar Stadium lives up to its past reputation of cricket being watched by a good audience.   -  R.V. MOORTHY

 

Chidambaram Stadium boasts of an impeccable reputation. It is Sachin Tendulkar’s most-loved venue in India and has seen some great encounters. The Tied Test against Australia in 1986 is unforgettable and remains a tribute to the most knowledgeable of all spectators in the country. The pitches at Chepauk have always been sporting.

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The Chinnaswamy Stadium seats are taken up by spectators known to back good cricket. It offers ideal conditions for cricket – pitch, outfield with an amazing drainage system, and a lovely view of the field.

The Wankhede Stadium has superb accessibility for the spectators and a great tradition of cricket-watching, a venue which has a large of former stars, from the world cricket, business and cinema, among the audience. Tradition is steeped in the staging of Tests at this iconic venue.

Holkar Stadium lives up to its past reputation of cricket being watched by a good audience. It has one of the finest playing surface and outfield and massive support from the stands. Empty seats are unknown at this venue, which is located in the heart of the city.

All these five venues are well-connected by air, rail and road and offer decent accommodation at competitive rates for all variety of visitors.

K.C. Vijaya Kumar

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

VCA Stadium, Nagpur

 

The ideal five Test venues would be Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Nagpur. This is a subjective call but the first four cities high on stirring cricketing tales, pick themselves. All these grounds have character and more importantly, the crowds do turn up for the longer format.

The fans could range from the passionate and full-throated as in Kolkata's Eden Gardens to the all-embracing as evident through Chennai's Chidambaram Stadium. Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium has its share of tradition while Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, next to the leafy Cubbon Park, is pastoral and quaint.

Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium might seem to be the odd one out, considering it is well beyond the Orange City and there are commuting issues, which affects the turn-out. But it is a modern sports complex and a personal bias has to be disclosed – it has the best media facilities in the country!

G. Viswanath

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

 

Chidambaram Stadium boasts of an impeccable reputation. It is Sachin Tendulkar’s most-loved venue in India and has seen some great encounters.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The primary aim of the administrators in the State Associations affiliated to the BCCI is to prepare a pitch that delivers a result by tea time on the fifth day or thereabout in a Test match and the Mumbai Cricket Association has been lucky on this count.

The D Road venue has made the fans and teams happy producing a result for the home and visiting teams in 72 per cent of the 25 Tests played. Mumbai has a cricket culture that's hard to match in the country and hence is an automatic choice for being a permanent Test venue.

The sporting crowd of Chennai has made Test matches played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium most memorable, a classic example being the India - Pakistan Test played there two decades ago.

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For the sheer romance of the game the Eden Gardens, Kolkata takes the top spot. It is a venue that stands out for the humongous numbers that go past the turnstiles for almost every Test match. It was the venue that saw a phenomenal partnership between Laxman and Dravid that turned a Test match on its head and proceeded to deliver a stunning win against Australia in 2001.

The Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi has been a traditional Test match venue. After being a laggard, Delhi competed hard with mighty Mumbai teams and has produced match-winners in the last twenty years like Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, all responsible for spreading the game across the country.

And finally, Bengaluru has become a powerhouse of Indian cricket supplying high-quality players to the national team. The State of Karnataka has the right mix of people to promote the game and all forms of cricket.

Shreedutta Chidananda

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Holkar Stadium, Indore

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

 

There is a need to take Test cricket to all parts of the country, but only as long as the venue is accessible to fans, has previously seen good turnouts for Test matches, or has traditionally been an important cricket centre in India.

There has to be a Test in Bombay (Wankhede Stadium), Calcutta and Madras, simply because they are India's three big cricket centres, together having hosted over a third of the country's home Tests (98 out of 270).

Bangalore should be a fixture in the Indian cricket calendar not least because the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium sees full houses for Test matches all the time. The venue is also a favourite of touring sides for the weather.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

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Bangalore should be a fixture in the Indian cricket calendar not least because the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium sees full houses for Test matches all the time. The venue is also a favourite of touring sides for the weather.

Indore gets a vote for three reasons: the excellent turnout for the city's first Test, between India and New Zealand in 2016; the historical significance of Indore and the Holkar team in Indian cricket; and the need to have a venue in central India.

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

VCA Stadium, Nagpur

HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala

 

Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai tops the list for its location and easy access via local train, bus and cabs.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai tops the list for its location and easy access via local train, bus and cabs. On top of that, the BCCI headquarters is in the premises and the players’ hotel is barely a kilometre away — perfect for all stakeholders.

The iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata comes second for the history, capacity and the spirit of the spectators. You can’t miss the mexican wave!

M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru is highly recommended for the weather; the nip in the air offers a bit of swing with the new ball early in the morning. The ground also has SubAir subsurface aeration and vacuum-powered drainage system to combat the rain.

The Vidarbha Cricket Association ground in Nagpur deserves to host more Tests for its sprawling size and the comfort it offers to players — outdoor practice wickets and clean change rooms.

Under normal circumstances, I would have picked Chennai as the fifth venue but the three empty stands — sealed due to legal issues — aren't pleasing to the eyes.  Dharamsala — with a blend of cricket and tourism — gets my vote.

Amol Karhadkar

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

P.C. A. Stadium, Mohali

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad

V.C.A Stadium, Nagpur

 

Chepauk has a rich tradition and a knowledgeable crowd. Chinnaswamy and Kotla too are convenient in terms of spectator access and being conventional venues. Eden and Wankhede are the epicentre of Indian cricket in more ways than one. But does that mean Test cricket in India should be restricted to only these five traditional venues?

Mohali has emerged as the best pitch in the last two decades, although the Punjab Cricket Association is constructing a new stadium closeby. So is the Gujarat Cricket Association - the den of India’s administration, cricket or otherwise - at Motera.

Hyderabad has produced decent Test pitches ever since it acquired Test status almost a decade ago. Among the newest venues, Indore saw the best crowd turnout, thanks to a sporting culture of the city and the location of the stadium, bang in the middle of the city, just like Bengaluru.

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So if one had to hack the list of Test venues in India from existing 16 or 17 to 5, what criteria would be applied? Objectively, it has to be a combination of pitch, condition, tradition, facilities for players and broadcasters, logistical and spectator convenience.

But considering objectivity hardly matters in Indian cricket, just like in other walks of life, don’t be surprised if Ahmedabad or Dharamsala are included in the list. Or perhaps the BCCI might have a rotation system of three venues besides the five traditional venues, to strike the balance between pleasing the India captain and BCCI members simultaneously.

I would just stick to seven of the nine Test venues - except Kanpur and Delhi - that were prevalent till Hyderabad’s addition to the list in 2010. They are Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Mohali and Nagpur.

Shayan Acharya

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

Green Park Stadium, Kanpur

 

What do you need to ensure Test cricket survives?

The answer is quite simple: good facilities, perfect playing conditions and most importantly a good turnout.

While the BCCI has taken initiatives by taking Test cricket to all parts of the country, empty stands and dwindling crowd hasn’t served the purpose.

So, it’s time we go back to the traditional Test venues of the country -- which have not only been power centres of Indian cricket but also have a dedicated fan base.

And keeping that in mind, the top three venues have to be -- Wankhede Stadium, M.A. Chidambaram Stadium and Eden Gardens. The other two in the list will be the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru and Green Park in Kanpur. Connectivity to Kanpur is indeed a bit of a challenge and the stadium also requires a facelift, but even then, every time there is a Test match -- the cricket enthusiasts in the old city make it a point to make their presence felt.

It was evident even when India played its 500th Test at the Green Park in 2016. In the end, that’s what we need -- fans coming out in large numbers to back the game!

Connectivity to Kanpur is indeed a bit of a challenge and the Green Park stadium also requires a facelift, but even then, every time there is a Test match -- the cricket enthusiasts in the old city make it a point to make their presence felt.   -  R.V. MOORTHY

 

 

S. Dinakar

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala

 

The fours centres with cricketing culture, tradition and passion that qualify straightaway are Eden Gardens (Kolkata), M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Chennai), Wankhede Stadium (Mumbai) and Chinnaswamy Stadium (Bengaluru). You are guaranteed a decent crowd to lend the Tests that vital atmosphere. 

There will be a fight for the fifth venue though. Nagpur has a modern facility with wonderful amenities but is too far from the city. New Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla has history but the spectator facilities are disappointing.

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Mohali is a pleasant venue but crowds for Tests have been shrinking here. The cricket-loving Indore, the home of the formidable Holkars, has a ground at the heart of the city but the Stadium itself does not have a distinct stamp. A quality that Dharamshala has in plenty. With its breathtaking views and backdrop, this venue has exciting possibilities if the authorities manage to bring in the crowds. My vote goes to Dharamshala. It will be among the most picturesque Test arenas in the world.

With its breathtaking views and backdrop, the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala has exciting possibilities if the authorities manage to bring in the crowds.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Abhishek Mukherjee

Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

VCA Stadium, Nagpur

 

I've selected these venues considering two factors — location and history. Four out of five cities listed are not just metropolitan cities, but cricketing hubs as well, with a rich history of cricket.

Moreover, fans from all corners of India can converge on their nearest venue to catch the action. For example, a fan from Arunachal Pradesh keen to watch Test cricket can travel down to Kolkata, and another from Himachal Pradesh to Delhi, and so on.

I've also chosen VCA Stadium, Nagpur, since the city is located right at the heart of India. Those from central India can converge on Nagpur and watch Test cricket there.

I chose the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium purely due to its richer cricketing history. But it had to be a hard no on the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.