The five pillars of Indian Test cricket

Following Virat Kohli’s comments on India needing five permanent Test centres after the dismal attendance against South Africa, Sportstar looks at the likeliest candidates.

Wankhede Stadium: First Test 1975; Tests hosted 25; capacity 33,100.   -  Vivek Bendre

Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

The sheer fact that 72 percent of the 25 Test matches played against seven opponents at the Wankhede Stadium since it opened in 1975 have seen results bears testimony to it being India’s premier venue for Test matches.

The cricket culture in the city is nonpareil in comparison with any other part of the country, and though live telecasts have led to thin attendance over a period of time, there has always been a good turnout by cricket-lovers buying tickets over the counter for interesting days of Test cricket.

The Brabourne Stadium, a Test match venue till 1973, saw results in a dismal 38.89 percent of matches — seven from 18 played — but the red soil in the pitch at the Wankhede has done wonders for both fast bowlers and spinners and improved the result quotient.

While the local faithful, being able to see competitive club matches, appreciate a good contest between India and the visiting country, on occasions they have given vent to their ire at the home team’s poor showing.

But the phenomenal success of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar, just to name a few among many Test cricketers from Mumbai, has sustained the locals’ interest in the longest format of the game. Sixteen Test matches have been played in the winter time of November-December, when the wickets are still not overused. Other Test matches have been played in October and between January and March.

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

Two decades ago, the locals gave a standing ovation to India’s arch-rival Pakistan after Wasim Akram led his team to a 12-run win. The Test was a purist’s delight after seamer Venkatesh Prasad triggered interest with a dream spell of 6-33 in Pakistan’s second innings and Sachin Tendulkar played a brilliant knock of 136 while batting with a painful back.

The Chennai fans won the hearts of the home and visiting teams alike, appreciating cricket the way it should be and not raising a partisan head. The involvement of the spectators in a keenly fought contest earned them kudos from all parts of the world, and this remarkable act of sportsmanship, even applauding the Pakistan win, is a virtue not seen at many venues.

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium: First Test in 1934; Tests hosted 32; capacity 50,000.   -  K. Pichumani

 

The great game of cricket thrives on such splendid behaviour from fans, and for this fact Chennai needs to remain a permanent Test centre. The southern city has seen many excellent performances after the ninth and last Test was played against New Zealand at the Corporation Stadium in Chennai.

While the Corporation Stadium gave results in six matches — two for India, three for Australia and one for the West Indies — for a success rate close to 67 percent, the success rate at Chepauk is a little lower at 62.5 from 32 matches (20 wins, seven draws and one tie against Australia).

But it’s the memorable match against Pakistan and the tied Test against Australia that make Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium a natural Test match venue, more so during the Pongal festivities.

Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi

The Kotla has produced results in 19 of the 34 Test matches played for a success rate of 55.88, with India winning 13 and losing six. Fifteen test matches have ended in a stalemate.

Test matches have been played at the Kotla, now formally known as the Arun Jaitley Stadium, for over seven decades — a fundamental reason for it to remain a permanent Test centre. Delhi has produced spectacular batsmen — and great entertainers — in the last 20 years like Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli and good seamers, and has contributed to the development of the game.

Feroz Shah Kotla: First Test 1948; Tests hosted 34; capacity 41,820.   -  Sandeep Saxena

 

Moreover, Delhi is India’s capital with a multicultural lifestyle, and there are enough fans to throng the Kotla for a Test match. Like most venues, Delhi too may have been affected by live broadcasts and people choosing to watch action in their living rooms. But this cannot be the reason for taking away Delhi’s primacy in hosting Test matches. Its connectivity is good, there are great hotels for the teams to stay in, and the city is full of history.

It’s at this venue that Anil Kumble took all 10 wickets in the second innings of the Test match against Pakistan 20 years ago in 1999. So there is some great cricketing history attached to this city.

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Passion for football and passion for cricket... Kolkata, the City of Joy, epitomises its affection for both sport, cricket becoming a massive attraction after Sourav Ganguly lit up venues the world over with his swashbuckling brand of batsmanship.

The century on debut at Lord’s was just the start. His leadership further appealed to Calcuttans and the local hero has attention riveted on him through his television commentary these days. Now he is president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India who wants Test cricket to move ahead with day-night games.

Eden Gardens: First Test 1934; Tests hosted 41; capacity 68,000.   -  PTI

 

The Eden Gardens has hosted 41 Test matches and it has delivered a success rate of only 51.22 — 21 wins and 20 draws. But the famous ground has been held in awe because of its size to accommodate spectators in excess of 80,000. Before the advent of Ganguly, spectator interest in the sport was always the talking point. It’s so even now. Bengal has a tradition and many of its cricketers may have been unlucky not to have played for the country, but a handful who played, like Pankaj Roy, were big names in Indian cricket.

The first five Test matches at the Eden Gardens, played between 1934 and 1955, were drawn, before Australia won the 1956 Test by 94 runs. India has won 12 Tests at the ground. Kolkata has tradition and is proud of its sporting culture, and hence should remain a permanent Test centre. After all, it’s the venue where V. V. S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid turned the Test match on its head against Australia in 2001.

M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

Karnataka is a powerhouse in cricket these days with a number of players hogging the limelight, warranting attention and recognition from the national selectors.

The state has terrific infrastructure to offer its cricketers, and they have made the most of it at all levels. More significantly, the success of many batsmen, seamers and spinners has played its part, setting off great interest among young cricketers. Cricket is a thriving sport in the state and across all formats. Early this year, Karnataka won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and recently the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

The turnout for Test matches in Bengaluru may not be encouraging, but it’s always a packed house for Indian Premier League matches and across all formats of the domestic matches, which demonstrates the interest for the game.

M. Chinnaswamy Stadium: First Test 1974; Tests hosted 23; capacity 40,000.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

 

Blessed with cricket-minded people, the administrators of the game in the state have always looked forward to consolidating its position in the country.

Bengaluru has hosted 23 Test matches since 1974 and has produced a result percentage of 60.87, with the home team winning eight, including four of the last five. In a way, it’s become a favourite ground for the Indian team. For many reasons, most importantly for the supply of quality cricketers the state provides to the national team, Bengaluru has to continue as a Test match centre.