Cricket

Coronavirus prevents play at Trump-opened world's biggest stadium

2020-04-08 07:34
Sardar Patel Stadium
Sardar Patel Stadium (BCCI - Twitter)

There is no larger symbol of the global sports shutdown than cricket's 110 000-seater Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, opened by US President Donald Trump, but yet to see a ball bowled.

India's newest and the world's biggest cricket stadium lies empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Where there should be the sound of leather on willow and the roar of the crowd, there is only silence.

Just a few weeks ago, it had been packed to capacity as Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood side-by-side in a show of pomp and ceremony for the 24 February inauguration.

Eclipsing Australia's 100 000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, it was rumoured to be in line to host the final of this year's Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's richest Twenty20 tournament, watched by millions worldwide.

But then came Covid-19. The pandemic has brought the sporting world to a grinding halt with massive events including the Tokyo Olympics, football's European Championships, golf and tennis majors, and the glitzy IPL postponed.

"There was hardly any time between the Trump event and the pandemic," a senior Gujarat Cricket Association official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that once cricket resumes, the stadium could be ready "in double-quick time."

"Just five percent work is remaining and it just needs the finishing touches," the official added.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has pushed back the IPL from its original start date of 29 March to 15 April, but with the number of coronavirus cases in India exceeding 5 000 and still rising, pressure is growing for it to be shifted again, truncated or scrapped.

The $100-million, circular venue, promises unobstructed views and has state-of-the-art facilities including an Olympic-sized swimming pool as part of a multisports complex.

Next door, a refurbished venue on the site of the former 49 000-capacity Motera Stadium will serve as a venue for cricket, football and hockey.

Critics have charged that it is another "white elephant" vanity project in Modi's home state, following the completion of the world's largest statue there in 2018 - also dedicated to independence hero Sardar Patel.

The giant Statue of Unity measures 182 metres tall - twice the height of New York's Statue of Liberty.

Modi was Gujarat chief minister for 13 years until 2014, and revamping the former Motera stadium had been long a pet project.

Home Minister Amit Shah, a close ally, headed the Gujarat Cricket Association until last year and his son Jay Shah is the secretary of the BCCI, the world's richest and most powerful cricket board.

Despite cricket being wildly popular in India, domestic first class matches - and even some international Test matches - are often played to near-empty stadiums.

The only matches guaranteed to attract big crowds are IPL games and one-day internationals - and even then it depends on the quality of the opposition.

The nation of 1.3 billion people already has more than a dozen stadiums capable of hosting international cricket, although in the off-season they can be used for other events.

"You are left wondering whether it is a rock concert venue, (or) is it a cricket stadium?" ESPNcricinfo senior editor Sharda Ugra told AFP.

"I would have hoped that there would have been some analysis on the kind of grounds that India needs now.

"We have a lot of these giant grounds in which you have one international match in two years."

Read more on:    india  |  bcci  |  donald trump  |  lockdown  |  cricket  |  coronavirus

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2019/20 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs
Vote

Who will win the upcoming India v Proteas three-match ODI series?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.