Ind v NZ: Indore excited ahead of Test bow

As Indore gears up to host its first ever Test match, there is plenty of chatter related to pehla (maiden) Test. And there is a sense of pride in those discussions about the city that’s often referred to as mini-Mumbai for its cosmopolitan culture.

Indore will host its first ever Test match.   -  S. Subramanium

It’s the season of firsts for Indian cricket. No, one is not at all referring to terms like Lodha, reforms, Supreme Court, et al. It’s all about the men in white flannels. The Indian cricket board fit in a whopping 13 Tests in India’s home season, albeit to the utter detest of the host broadcaster. That’s not all. Six of those 13 Tests were allotted to venues across various nooks and corners of the country, which had been granted Test status recently.

No wonder then that the moment one boards a flight to Indore – the first of those debutant venues when it hosts last of India’s three Tests against New Zealand from Saturday – there is a buzz about Test cricket. One can overhear plenty of chatter related to pehla (maiden) Test. And there is a sense of pride in those discussions about the city that’s often referred to as mini-Mumbai for its cosmopolitan culture.

It’s a big festival for Indore and the whole of Madhya Pradesh. And it would be fitting to celebrate the occasion when all the stands are overflowing. I am sure the Test will receive an overwhelming response since Indore is referred to as a sport city.

The pride is perfectly understandable considering the legacy of Indore cricket. It may have taken more than eight decades for Indore to host its first Test since India made its foray as a cricketing nation, but its tryst with India’s cricket history is as old as cricket’s presence. Thanks to Holkars — the princely State that ruled over central India in the pre-Independence era, embracing cricket and floating their own team during Ranji Trophy’s early years — the city nurtured some of India’s early superstars in Indian cricket. The likes of C.K. Nayudu and S. Mushtaq Ali played for the Holkars, who won four Ranji titles in the first two decades of the tournament.

“It’s a great honour, to be hosting a Test match. This is a city with lot of cricketing history, so we are proud of the past,” Sanjay Jagdale, the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) president, who has represented MP with distinction and also served as a national selector and BCCI secretary, told Sportstar on Thursday.

“India had its first captain from this city (Nayudu), the first cricketer to score a Test hundred outside India (Mushtaq Ali). Then Narendra Hirwani carried that legacy forward. A lot of history here. Indore, on the back of its history and having successfully hosted so many domestic and international matches successfully, deserved this opportunity. All the players and teams who have played here have liked the ground, the conditions; they have spoken very highly about it. This has been a tremendous effort by the MPCA, its office-bearers, its volunteers and above all the cricket-loving public of Indore which has been very disciplined and knowledgeable.”

Surprisingly, MP hasn’t been able to match the feat of Holkars in the last six decades. And the list of MP players representing India has also shrunk over the years. Hirwani, who etched his name in the record books with a sensational 16-wicket haul in his debut Test, against the West Indies in 1988, offspinner Rajesh Chauhan and wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha have earned Test caps, while Amay Khurasia and all-rounder J.P. Yadav made it to the one-day team.

Hirwani, who has a gate of the Holkar Stadium named after him, hopes the staging of Test match will give the city the much-needed boost to MP cricket. “Some of us – like myself, Rajesh Chauhan, JP, Amay, Naman – have kept MP’s tradition of producing international cricketers alive,” Hirwani said from Bengaluru, where he is involved as the bowling coach at the National Cricket Academy. “But I do agree that the State hasn’t been able to produce Test cricketers as much as it should have. Hopefully the first Test will inspire youngsters and Indore’s addition as a Test venue will change the scenario in the coming years.”

Indore is known for its love for sports, with the city regularly hosting various high-profile events across disciplines. As a result, the MPCA is confident most of the 27,000-odd seats at the stadium will be occupied all through the match.

To mark the special occasion, Jagdale informs the MPCA will release some souvenirs and distribute caps to each spectator on the opening day as a memento. But they have a surprise in store as well. “I cannot reveal it till we get the permission from the match referee. We are planning to demonstrate a particular piece of cricket history to all the cricket lovers. It will come as a surprise if the match referee permits,” he signs off.