The Grace Gates, The 3 W’s Oval, The Greenidge & Haynes Stands, The Malcolm Marshall & Joel Garner Ends – all names with a nice ring to them. The practice of christening arenas in honour of sportsmen is perhaps as old as sport itself. Sadly, it is a tradition that’s not highly valued in India. The Wankhede is an exception, with stands celebrating the achievements of Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, and gates paying homage to Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar. One may argue, and not without reason, that with Mumbai having produced a lion’s share of India’s heroes from yesteryear, there aren’t too many cricketers going around for other associations to honour. Hence we have stadiums named after administrators (acceptable), sponsors (a necessary evil) & politicians (downright embarrassing). The new stadium at Uppal seemed to take a step in the right direction with the V.V.S. Laxman stand, but for Shivlal Yadav to bestow his own name upon the pavilion, was a case of terrible blasphemy to a lineage that has produced, among others, Ghulam
Ali Ahmed, M.L. Jaisimha, Abbas Ali Baig, Asif Iqbal, Abid Ali & Mohammad Azharuddin. And of course, like everything else in the state of Andhra, it is called Rajiv Gandhi.
Now let’s say the BCCI got together over cocktails, and commissioned the ultimate Indian cricket ground, and got so drunk that they decided to baptize it in tribute to cricketers, and not DLF, Lalit Modi or Pranab Mukherjee; how might that go? At once, an exercise in appellation and an expression of admiration.
The name of the stadium is a no-brainer. Let’s call it Kapil Dev and move on. World Cup winner, all rounder nonpareil, and quite simply, the finest natural cricketer to have emerged from our shores. May this recompense him for PCA’s Mohali mural fiasco, an impudent obloquy on a legend who dared to bless a rebel.
I have come up with a system wherein great Indian batsmen lend their names to stands located in the directions of their respective signature strokes. Thus, we start with the Sachin Tendulkar pavilion, for there’s nothing straighter in cricket than pavilions, and the full face of Tendulkar’s instrument. The stand diametrically opposite to the pavilion would bear the name of that other champion of the V, Sunil Gavaskar. Square on either side of the pitch is the territory of those exalted exponents of square-cuts and square-drives, the two masters from Banaglore, Gundappa Vishwanath and Rahul Dravid. Giving Tendulkar company on his right, his comrade of a thousand opening sorties in ODIs, Saurav Ganguly. Batting from the same end as Tendulkar, his serene cover drives would be lapped up by the adoring patrons of this stand. Antipodal to this section, would be the V.V.S. Laxman Acres, HRH of Wide Mid-on & Deep Midwicket. Now that leaves us with stands flanking long-leg on both ends. While Indians haven’t been the best practitioners of the hook, the stroke that earns them a lot of their keep is the leg-glance. The inventor of this once exotic skill, the flagbearer of Oriental artistry, Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, could claim this stand dominion. The last remaining stand would be dedicated to Indian cricket’s first great partnership, Vijay Merchant & Syed Mushtaq Ali.
In cricket-speak, a stand is the reserve of batsmen, and an end, the bowler’s domain. The high pedigree of spin that Indian cricket has embraced is sassy enough to ensure fierce competition. The pavilion end would be eponymous with India’s biggest match-winner, Anil Kumble. The far end would salute the Bedi-Prasanna-Chandra axis, as glorious an inspiration as any for any bowler plying his craft from that end. I have deliberately left S. Venkataraghavan out as I have other plans for him.
The dressing rooms must convey a sense of sartorial elegance. I can think of no two cricketers better suited for the home and visiting sides’ changing rooms than Tiger Pataudi and Mohammad Azharuddin.
Most of us have never watched cricket in the flesh. We owe it to those who have brought it to our living rooms, to our earphones, and to our bookshelves. The Media Centre would be an institution to toast Dicky Rutnagur & Rajan Bala. The Commentary Box must recognize the services of Bobby Talyarkhan & Pearson Surita. The Broadcasting Suite has only one contender – Harsha Bhogle.
Let’s go back to Venkat, and honour him with the Third Umpire and Match Referee’s cabin. Raj Singh Dungarpur, for long the grey eminence of Indian cricket, would be the nomenclature incumbent for an imposing clubhouse. The scoreboard could be Mohandas Menon’s little alcove.
If anybody is keeping score, I have overlooked C.K. Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Subhash Gupte, Syed Kirmani, Dilip Vengsarkar & Virender Sehwag. At least the first and last of this list could be pacified. Being the biggest hitters, they could own the gates to the stadium, for that is where they deposit the ball. To the rest, all I have to offer is a sincere apology.