IND vs SL: Is it the final goodbye for IS Bindra stadium?

With a larger, grander stadium in Mullanpur virtually ready to host international cricket matches, the era of the IS Bindra stadium may be nearing the end.

PCA Cricket Stadium

General view of the PCA Cricket Stadium in Mohali.   -  The Hindu Archives

Local newspapers in Chandigarh report that a new stadium in Mullanpur, Punjab, is months away from being ready to host international matches. It has state-of-the-art facilities and is bigger in terms of seating capacity than the IS Bindra stadium here, which itself continues to be an excellent venue for all international cricket.

The IS Bindra stadium was built in the early 1990s by the Punjab Cricket Association and went on to host 44 international matches, including the Test last week between India and Sri Lanka. For its facilities, it was hailed then as one of India’s best cricket venues.

“It was a very good stadium. I still remember Garry Sobers saying, ‘I have never seen this kind of stadium anywhere.’ There were floodights even for nets, and the pitch had a lot of bounce,” Vivek Atray, ex-IAS officer and convener of the JP Atray memorial tournament, a List A tournament held every year in Chandigarh, told Sportstar. Atray admits the excellent drainage system at the IS Bindra stadium allows his team to host the JP Atray memorial tournament despite rain.

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Among the most memorable matches played here was the semifinal of the 1996 World Cup, between Australia and West Indies. West Indies needed 34 runs from 39 deliveries with six wickets in hand, but couldn’t chase it down, falling short of the target by six runs. Shikhar Dhawan’s century on Test debut against Australia and the 2011 World Cup semifinal were also here.

Atray says the stadium has benefited Punjab and Chandigarh cricket in so far as it has given aspiring players access to the best facilities. Revenues and other benefits from hosting international matches accrue, of course.

Bigger, better

After many years, the PCA, like other cricket associations around the country, probably felt the need to build a bigger, better stadium. Work in Mullanpur, about 15km away from the IS Bindra stadium, began in 2013-14; the first phase of its construction is over, and the second phase is near completion. Some State-level cricket matches have already been played there. There are two grounds – A and B – where matches can be held; in addition, it has a ground just for practice.

The stadium has a seating capacity of 35,000, 10,000 more than the IS Bindra stadium, and the parking space is larger, too. The drainage facility is so good that matches, some have claimed, can be held within 30 minutes after heavy rain. Inspection teams from the BCCI have visited the facility from time to time to observe and to advise. So far, the stadium has gained clearances by 16 different State and national-level authorities, including the forest department, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Pollution Control Board.

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Although Punjab will soon have two stadiums ready for international cricket, neighbouring State Haryana has none. “Yes it does create a bit of a disparity – Haryana doesn’t have a world-class centre. They did host a match in 2006 – an ODI between India and Australia – but that was at the Sector-16 stadium in Chandigarh (Chandigarh, a union territory, is the common capital of Punjab and Haryana). They planned to host it in Faridabad, but they faced a few problems,” Atray recalled.

Perhaps the IS Bindra stadium will host plenty of domestic matches in the future, or even IPL contests. But an era seems to be ending.

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