A game of cricket cannot be played without a proper stadium. There are no international matches held on ‘maidans’ or playgrounds afterall. There are several factors that determine how excellent a stadium actually is. Whether in terms of lighting, crowd capacity, pitches, facilities, aerial view and so on. But there have been just a few which can be termed ‘excellent’ because any stadium can have a pitch or products such as a carpet to cover the pitch or a roller to remove the grass from it as well decent seating. Some of them though go much beyond the basics and have made a name for themselves in cricketing history. Here are those who have been able to do so.
1) Lord’s Cricket Ground, London (England)
Located in the area of St. John’s Wood in North London, the Lord’s Cricket Ground is definitely one of the finest cricket stadiums in the world. Also known as the ‘Home of Cricket’, Lord’s was once the centre of the cricketing globe, since most of the administrative decisions courtesy the ICC having its headquarters here until 2005, were taken on the premises of this very ground.
For a spectator, there is some aura in the ground the moment you enter it. It is definitely a must see venue atleast once in your lifetime. Since you do not get to see a museum, a gigantic media centre, two restaurants or a Long Room which is the link to the ground from the dressing room, in any other cricket ground. Besides on the ground, there are 30,000 seats in total and has a peculiar slope which makes a long boundary and causes appreciable deviation in bounce of the ball on the pitch, making it easier to move the ball in to right-handed batsmen when bowling from the Pavilion End, and easier to move it away when bowling from the Nursery End.
The founder of this ground was Thomas Lord, and was established in 1814. The first ever international fixture here was an Ashes Test in 1884 between England and Australia. Ever since it has hosted some thrilling matches with respect to both Tests and ODIs, with one of them ofcourse being the NatWest Series final in 2002 when India chased down 326 in 50 overs, famously beating England and Sourav Ganguly, who has fond memories of this ground for enlightening his career, was the captain of India in the game and famously removed his India jersey as a sign of celebration.
Other important games it hosted were the World Cup finals of 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999 when the tournament was held in England.
For any cricketer, it is a dream come true for represent his country on this ground and especially to have his name on the honours board. Lord’s was the first ground in cricket to recognize the excellent performances of players, irrespective of the fact that they play for England or the opposition team, by putting their name on the board across both the dressing rooms.
It has witnessed some of the finest debut matches for cricketers such as Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Andrew Strauss with Ganguly and Strauss scoring Test centuries in their very first innings of Test cricket while Dravid missed out on 95. Graham Gooch of England is the highest run scorer in Tests at this venue with 2015 runs, scoring as many as 6 hundreds. While Ian Botham has picked 59 wickets at Lord’s.
The overseas players who have made the maximum impact have been Glenn McGrath, the legendary Australian fast bowler who has picked 26 wickets at Lord’s while Sir Don Bradman has the highest ever individual score on this ground, which is a surprisingly low 254 which led Australia to declare at 729/6, the highest team total as well ever scored at Lord’s.
At the moment, Lord’s is the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, which is actually the custodian of the game since the ICC acts according to their rules. And the home of Middlesex, one of the counties which participates in English domestic competitions. It is in the plans of hosting the archery competition of the London Olympics in the summer of this year.
Its proud curator is Mick Hunt.
2) Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Melbourne (Australia)
The MCG is the largest cricket ground in the world, founded in 1854 with a capacity of 100,000 people and a playing area 172.9 m long and 147.8 m wide. It holds several other records such as being the tenth largest sports stadium in the world and having the highest light towers at any sporting venue.
The ‘G’ as it is affectionately called by the people of Melbourne, has hosted the 1956 Olympic games and the 2006 Commonwealth Games apart from cricket and Australian rules football matches, which are played in the winter season.
But when it comes to cricket, in Australia it hosts the Boxing Day Test match every year on the 26th December, drawing out normally huge crowds since it is usually a half day for the working class and the stadium is in the heart of the city, in the area of Richmond and more precisely in the Yarra Park. While even in ODIs, matches held here are a financial success for Cricket Australia since the ground is in the east side of the city’s CBD, which allows business people to actually take a short walk from their offices after 5 pm to watch the second half of a day-night ODI.
In short, it is a striking ground: the three-tiered Great Southern Stand (which was completed in 1992) limits the perimeter of 50% of the ground and holds close to 50,000 people; there are also huge banks of seating in the Ponsford Stand, Olympic Stand and Members’ Reserve. It is also supplied with a Gallery of Sport, two giant electronic scoreboards, and a wide range of corporate and media facilities.
Incidentally, it is this very ground that has had the privilege of hosting the first ever Test match, i.e. in 1877 when Australia played England and the first ever ODI match, i.e., in 1971 with the teams being the same. Fittingly, Australia won both those matches. It also hosted the 1992 World Cup final between Pakistan and England, which Pakistan went on to win. Too unlucky for the Poms perhaps!
It is also the home of the Victorian first class team which plays the Sheffield Shield competition and the Melbourne Stars team of the inaugural T20 Big Bash season. It is the legendary legspinner Shane Warne’s home ground.
The curator is Cameron Hodgkins, who has sometimes been criticized in the past by producing slow and wearing out surfaces. But altogether, the MCG has one of the best pitches in the world as it provides a fair contest between the bat and ball, which is exactly what spectators pay their moneys for to watch.
3) Eden Gardens, Kolkata (India)
Founded in 1864, the Eden Gardens is India’s answer to the MCG. The stadium is located in the Binoy Badal Dinesh Bag area of the city, near the State Secretariat and the High Court and has hosted 37 Test matches and 25 one-day internationals in its cricketing history. It first hosted a Test match in 1934 against England, led by Douglas Jardine which would go on to win inside four days. While it’s first ODI was the 1987 World Cup match between India and Pakistan, which appropriately the then-defending champions and hosts India won by 2 wickets.
It is second biggest cricket stadium in the world, following the Melbourne Cricket Ground also the second largest stadium in India behind the Salt Lake Stadium, also located in Kolkata. Yet, it possesses a passionate and vociferous crowd, as its seating capacity is 90,000. This is after the decision made by the Cricket Association of Bengal to renovate the stadium. Every Indian fan and especially Kolkatan is acquainted of the deafening noise in the stadium, especially when India is winning a match. It can add on to the nerves of the opposition players, which is probably why it is said ‘a cricketer’s cricketing education is not complete till he has played in front of a packed Eden Gardens’. This explains why some cricketers dream of playing in Kolkata more than any other ground in the world atleast once in their career, let alone Lord’s.
However, the crowd is so engrossed with the game and cheering India that it has witnessed some of the most embarrassing moments of Indian cricket such as burning of fire in between the 1996 World Cup semifinal match between India and Sri Lanka as well a Test match between India and Pakistan in 1999, which disrupted the flow of play and India went on to lose both those matches. As much as Kolkata loves cricket, it loves India too since it cannot see an opposition winning and not getting their money’s worth.
Eden Gardens usually produces spin-friendly and deteriorating pitches, which is why sometimes matches become one-sided. But it has also witnessed some of the greatest ever cricketing clashes, which included the 1987 World Cup final between Australia and England. Australia won by a narrow 7-run margin to lift the trophy and prevailing in the first World Cup final played outside England. While the 2001 Test match between India and Australia saw only the third instance in Test cricket of all time when a team won the match after following on in the second innings. India did so; courtesy VVS Laxman’s 281 and Rahul Dravid’s 180 as the 281 was considered as one of the finest Test knocks ever. It also broke world champions Australia’s record 16 match winning streak and changed the face of Indian cricket completely.
It is the home ground of the former India captain and great Sourav Ganguly and also of the Bengal cricket team in the Ranji Trophy and the Kolkata Knight Riders, which is the IPL franchise co-owned by Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan.
4) Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney (Australia)
Established in 1848, the Sydney Cricket Ground has a capacity of 46,000 making it have a huge seating capacity to make people watch cricket and cheer their respective teams irrespective of wherever they are seated on the ground.
It is situated in Moore Park in the east of Sydney. The Sydney Cricket Ground is not only one of the world’s most famous cricketing venues but also for Australian Rules football and some rugby league football played throughout the year. It is owned and operated by the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, a sports company that also manages the Sydney Football Stadium located next door.
It has a capacity of 46,000 but the opportunity cost is minimum since has it given way to Brewongle, Churchill, O’Reilly, Noble and Doug Walters Stands as a tribute to these cricketers who are legends of Australia or New South Wales cricket. It is the home ground afterall for the New South Wales team in the Sheffield Shield Competition which has won the title as many as 38 times as well as for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, which won the inaugural edition of the competition.
Sydney usually hosts the New Year’s Test match of the Australian summer, which is more often than not the last Test match Australia play, of the season. It has been a witness to one of the dirtiest controversies on the cricket field, i.e. the ‘Monkey gate’ in which India’s Harbhajan Singh allegedly abused Australia’s Andrew Symonds on the basis of his race. The match was won by the hosts but it involved a lot of poor umpiring decisions as well as claims of gamesmanship by the Aussies, which acted as a thorn for a few weeks in destroying cricketing relations between India and Australia.
But it is more often than not the ground where cricketers, especially Australians want to bid farewell to international cricket. Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne quit on the same day when Australia beat England in the final Ashes Test match of 2007 by a thumping 10-wicket margin, to win the series 5-0 out of 5 and helping the team bring the Ashes back to Australia in emphatic fashion. While Steve Waugh also retired from the game as captain in the Test match against India in 2004, following a drawn series 1-1.
It has been the home of several great players such as Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Doug Walters, Brett Lee and Michael Clarke, who is the current Australian captain.
5) Kennington Oval, London (England)
Better known as The Oval, this ground is one of the most breathtaking in England. As the name suggests, it resembles the ‘oval’ shape which is a rarity for a cricket ground which is frequently more circular in shape. It is this ground which has been a source of inspiration for the construction of other grounds across the world in a similar style of architecture, to make it look attractive.
It is located in South London, more precisely the area of Vauxhall whose tube station is 500 m away from the ground. This explains why the ground has an end called the ‘Vauxhall end’. Despite some redevelopment, it still represents parts of the ancient English architecture which makes it special to the city and the sport.
This is where international cricket began for England. The inaugural Test match in England was played here in September 1880, resulting in England defeating Australia by five wickets, with the pioneer of batting and the outspoken WG Grace scoring a century on debut. Besides this is where a Test series in England traditionally ends every summer.
More suitably, this is the historic venue where the foundation of the rivalry between England and Australia was set. This was back in August 1882 when England, chasing only 85 to win, collapse from 51 for 2 to 78 all out. The next morning the local newspaper, The Sporting Times published its famous mock obituary and the legend called the Ashes was born.
It has been gracious hosts to several crucial sporting occasions and can genuinely call itself to be the most important general sports ground in the world. It hosted the first ever FA Cup final in 1872 and the following year the first ever football match England’s national team played, which was against Scotland. It has also hosted international rugby matches. Interestingly, it was also an impermanent home to prisoners in transfer during the World War II.
It has a capacity of 23,500 and the home of the Surrey team, which is another team participating in the English county championships. It is run financially through debentures and the fact that it is named Kia Oval these days is because of the ground’s sponsorship with the car company.
6) Old Trafford, Manchester (England)
The ground’s name is the same as the football one which is the home ground to the popular club, Manchester United. But the cricket ground is different, as it is at a distance of five minutes. It was established as early as in 1857, but the first Test match played here was in 1884 between England and Australia.
Having a capacity of 19000, it is the third ground in the country of England to host the most number of Test matches, after Lords and the Oval since it has hosted as many as 73 Tests. The two ends of the ground are the Pavilion End to the north and the Brian Statham End (formerly the Warwick Road End) to the south, which is renamed in honour of the legendary Lancashire and England player. The section of Warwick Road at the back of this end is also known as Brian Statham Way. The Old Trafford Metrolink station is connected to the south-eastern part of the ground, making it easy for people to have access for entry.
Famously, people had to be sent home for the final day of the 2005 Ashes Test which was set for another gripping finish. England was in such form that it seemed as if the entire country was rallying behind them. Eventually, the match was a draw but it was a thrilling one as England were only 1 wicket from posting another win in the series, despite a resistant and brilliant 156 from Australian captain Ricky Ponting which proved to be a match saving ton.
Other great cricketing moments have been the maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test hundred coming at this ground against England in the second innings of the 1990 Test match, at the age of 17. Three years later, the spin king Shane Warne also made a name for himself in international cricket by delivering the ‘ball of the century’ to Michael Gatting, the England captain. While in 1956, it was in Old Trafford that Jim Laker, the English off-spinner became the first bowler ever to pick up all the 10 wickets in an innings, and that was against Australia. It is early proof how the ground has been amongst the most spin friendly in the country.
Old Trafford is also said to be amongst the wettest grounds in England, which is probably the reason why it is still undergoing massive redevelopment plans. Yet, it continues to remain in favour of the England and Wales Cricket Board and is the home ground for Lancashire, which has produced cricketers such as Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson amongst popular cricketers from the last decade.
7) The WACA, Perth (Australia)
It is owned and operated by the Western Australian Cricket Association. Fascinatingly, the WACA was built on an old swamp land yet it has been the home to many sports which include AFL, rugby and football, but it is the most popular as a cricket ground.
It has a capacity of 22,000, although it can be raised to 24,500 with the use of temporary stands. All those people present on the ground would be the luckiest enough to witness ‘real’ fast bowling. The WACA is the most renowned for the fact that it has always been the fastest pitch in the world, as the quality of the pitch alongside the sea breeze called as Fremantle Doctor also helps fast bowlers in bringing out swing, even if the wicket has flattened out. This means that batsmen can be caught off guard any time on such a pitch.
The iconic ground has been a witness to incidentally four of the seven fastest Test centuries in Test cricket till date, with the most popular ones being Adam Gilchrist scoring it in 57 balls against England in 2006 and recently, David Warner scoring it in 68 balls against India, as both were match winning and thoroughly entertaining efforts. It has also been Australia’s fortress in the last two decades, having won 29 out of the 38 Tests played here in cricketing history.
Perth also holds the record of the second highest individual score in Test cricket, that of 380 by Matthew Hayden against Zimbabwe in 2003. And also the second highest successful run chase in cricket with South Africa chasing 414 against Australia in 2008, winning by 6 wickets. Whereas, in T20 cricket, it hosted the first domestic match in Australia which was between the Western Australia Warriors and the Victorian Bushrangers, resulting in a sellout crowd.
In 2002, the ground had begun to redevelop and its capacity was reduced to make it more economical. It also included building a new small grandstand and players’ pavilion, reducing the amount of the playing arena, and replacing seats with grass hills on each side, with all the seats being new ones since there was a feeling of decay at the period of time by the authorities, as the ground was established in 1893.
It is the home ground of Western Australia Warriors and more recently the finalists of the Big Bash League 2011-12, the Perth Scorchers. It is also the home ground of several top Australian cricketers from the old and contemporary eras such as Geoff Marsh, Dennis Lillee, Shaun Marsh, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Hussey.
8) Kensington Oval, Barbados (West Indies)
Formerly known as the Pickwick Cricket Club, the Kensington Oval is a stadium situated in the west of the city Bridgetown which is the capital city of the island of Barbados. It has been existent since the last 130 years although the first Test match played here was between West Indies and England in January 1930.
After its reconstruction for the 2007 50-over World Cup, its seating capacity has been increased to 28,000. The names of the previous stands which made up the Kensington stadium were the George Challenor stand, the Hall and Griffith, the Kensington, the Mitchie Hewitt, the Pickwick, and the Three Ws stand plus the Peter Short Media Centre.
Alongside the WACA, the Kensington Oval was once upon a time said to have one of the fastest pitches in world cricket, so much so that it used to create shivers amongst many opposition batsmen when they came out to bat. Half the battle was already won by the West Indies, which is why they used to win an innumerable amount of Test matches at this venue, especially when they were at their prime, in the 70s and 80s under Clive Lloyd.
Not to mention, Barbados has been the home ground for several champion West Indies cricketers such as Sir Garfield Sobers, who is one of the legendary all-rounders to have graced the cricket field, the 3 Ws, i.e. Frank Worrell (any Test series played between West Indies and Australia is named after him), Sir Everton Weekes who has a world record of five Test hundreds in five consecutive innings, Sir Clyde Walcott.
As well as devastating pace bowlers such as Wes Hall, Charles Griffith and Malcolm Marshall. Not to forget, one of the finest opening partnerships of all time, Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge have played most of their cricket on this very ground.
Although these days, Barbados like any other of the West Indies pitches has slowed down tremendously due to the lack of quality fast bowlers in a declining national side. Yet, it has been host to the 2007 World Cup final between Australia and Sri Lanka, which was won by Australia, therefore defending the World Cup for the third time in a row successfully. As well as the 2010 World T20 final between Australia and England, which England famously prevailed by 7 wickets thanks to Kevin Pietersen’s sublime form as he enjoyed batting in friendly conditions.
9) The Wanderers, Johannesburg (South Africa)
The BIDVest Wanderers Stadium is named so these days because this stadium too is privately owned, since sponsors were invited by Cricket South Africa for more finances. It is also known as the ‘Bull Ring’ because of its style of architecture which is like a ring and its nerve-racking atmosphere just as bull fighting in Spain. So, for opposition teams to win here is a massive achievement.
This is the third Test ground in Johannesburg after the Old Wanderers Stadium and Ellis Park. For over three quarters of a century, it has been the hub of Johannesburg’s sporting dreams, whether it is in the field of cricket or golf, which are the two sports which are played the most in the district of Illovo, where the club is based. Or tennis as well as squash for that matter.
The first Test at the ground was in December 1956 between South Africa and England, when the visiting team won by 131 runs. While the first ODI took place in 1992, right after South Africa’s readmission into international cricket following a long period of the apartheid rule in the country. South Africa took on India and won the game by 6 wickets.
When South Africa hosted the World Cup for the first time in 2003, it was Johannesburg which was allocated the responsibility of hosting a grand final. The teams which participated in the match were Australia, led by Ricky Ponting and India, led by Sourav Ganguly. Australia won the game comfortably, by 125 runs as Ponting’s 140 took the game away from the Indians at the half-way stage itself. Australia’s score of 359 is the highest ever in a World Cup final. This was the team’s second consecutive World Cup win.
In the same tournament, the ground was enlightened to see Andrew Symonds hit 143 against Pakistan in the first group game which lifted the spirits of a demoralized world champion side which suffered from injuries and the suspension of Shane Warne due to drugs on the morning of the match.
While the first edition of the World T20 was also held in the same country and yet again Johannesburg had to be the venue for the final. It was between archrivals India and Pakistan. The match was a humdinger as it was always in a see-saw situation as India struggled to defend 157 for the majority of the game. However, Gautam Gambhir’s half century did not go in vain as Pakistan fell short by 5 runs after Misbah ul Haq played a fatal scoop shot to short fine leg where S Sreesanth took the catch to begin celebrations.
Some of the other famous ODIs to have taken place was South Africa against Australia in March 2006 when the hosts successfully chased down 434, therefore making the impossible possible. It was one of the most stunning games of one-day cricket which saw the world champions lose despite 433 runs on the board after 50 overs, with Ponting scoring another hundred on the venue and this being even a better one. However, South Africa in a rare instance did not choke in the chase courtesy Herschelle Gibbs’ counterattacking and scintillating 175 and Mark Boucher’s half century finished off the match in style.
The other one was in 2011 against India which saw South Africa lose by a mere 1 run margin, not being able to chase 191. It was a thrilling game where South Africa collapsed dramatically as well as the fact that although Johannesburg has a good batting strip, there were better bowling performances to see from both the sides.
In Test cricket, it was about three months ago that Australia chased down a massive target of 310 in testing conditions at the ground. It was a spectacle of a run chase with all of Australia’s out of sorts’ batsmen, i.e., Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Usman Khawaja hitting fifties while Mitchell Johnson and debutant Patrick Cummins finished the match off in style. Besides, it was on this ground that India posted their first ever Test win in South Africa, which was in 2006 when S Sreesanth picked up 8 wickets in the match to rattle the home team’s batting line-up in what were good conditions to swing the ball with even the slightest of pace.
Even in the Indian Premier League 2009, it was the Wanderers which hosted the final of the tournament between Deccan Chargers and the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Chargers, led by Adam Gilchrist eventually prevailed by 6 runs to capture the title.
10) Newlands, Cape Town (South Africa)
Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful grounds in the world. Newlands is what one can call ‘breathtaking’ with the view of the Table Mountain surrounding the stadium being magnificent. In sunshine, it looks as if one has landed in paradise to watch a game of cricket in relaxation as he sits down on one of the 25,000 white seats in the ground. While if cloudy, it becomes foggy but it remains a pretty view to the naked eye and the weather gets cooler, which makes it more fun to sit and watch the game.
Newlands is a buzzing area located in the suburbs of Cape Town. Right beside the cricket ground, there is a rugby ground which can sometimes be confusing for someone to determine the entry. Yet, once the ground is reached there are several entries and all of them adorn the posters of Cape Cobras, the team whose home ground is Newlands and have dominated South African domestic cricket since the last six years in almost all formats of the game.
Several great players have Newlands as their home ground such as Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Herschelle Gibbs.
It is however, a different ground than the rest in South Africa because of the fact that it traditionally assists spinners than fast bowlers and consequently most South African spinners come from Cape Town and the neighboring areas. Newlands is also one of the most result-oriented grounds in the country.
In day-night ODIs, Cape Town is considered to be one of the toughest stadiums in the world to bat in under lights because of the ball can zip through the batsman with the swing available due to the conditions and the fact that sometimes fog can deteriorate light conditions. This is why England lost to India in their group match in the World Cup 2003, although Ashish Nehra is certainly not the greatest when it comes to swing although he had pace at the time.
Usually Test matches in Newlands happen during the New Year’s week, just as those at the Sydney Cricket Ground and they turn out to be the last for the South African summer. Yet, it was recent that Australia were bowled out for a paltry 47 in the second innings, which is their lowest total ever in Test cricket and South Africa went on to win a difficult game by a walloping 8 wicket margin. While South Africa also beat India by 5 wickets in the 2007 Test to win the 3 match series 2-1, despite being 0-1 down at the beginning.